San Francisco, CA — A party bus reveler whose trip to North Beach ended in his injury and arrest was acquitted of all charges stemming from the incident, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated for one day before finding Javon Morrow not guilty Wednesday of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, and loitering in front of a nightclub, an infraction. Morrow faced up to two years in jail if convicted, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jack Lamar.
Morrow, 30, of San Jose, was arrested shortly after midnight on Nov. 20, 2010 in front of Horizon Restaurant and Lounge on Broadway Street. Moments earlier, an employee alerted a police officer that Morrow was loitering. Though Morrow had only been standing in front of the club, smoking, for five minutes, police gave him a loitering citation. Morrow told the officer he had a right to be there and refused to sign the ticket.
The officer claimed Morrow then ran 100 feet, turned around, hit him in the face, grabbed him by the collar and punched him in the ear several times, then grabbed the officer’s utility belt that contained his gun. The officer said he hit Morrow repeatedly in the face with his closed fist to force him to comply.
Two eyewitnesses who testified at the week-long trial, however, supported Morrow’s version of the story. Morrow and witnesses said that when he refused to sign the ticket, the officer forced Morrow’s arm behind his back and threw him face-first into the ground. The officer then turned Morrow around and punched him in the face several times, according to witnesses.
Photos presented at trial showed extensive bruising, cuts and scrapes on Morrow’s face. The officer, who claimed his glasses were broken during the scuffle, was photographed with his glasses intact and no injuries besides a minor scratch to the arm and slight redness on one ear.
“The jurors saw that the photo evidence simply didn’t back up the officer’s story,” Lamar said.
The police officer’s account was also contradicted by his partner, who testified at the trial.
“The jury did the right thing in acquitting Mr. Morrow,” Lamar said. “His arrest and beating wasn’t about justice, it was about retribution. The police officer was angry at Mr. Morrow for being defiant and he took it out him with his fists.”
Adachi said the case was an example of how eyewitness accounts may not match what is described in police reports.
“Fortunately for Mr. Morrow, two witnesses came forward. Their description of the incident held up under scrutiny in court, while the officer’s version of the story did not,” Adachi said.
Morrow is the third public defender client acquitted in the past two months of resisting arrest after police officers used excessive force. On July 22, Chris Christopher was found not guilty of five misdemeanors after police responded to his verbal barb by forcing him out of a car in a choke-hold. On July 19, Benjamin King was found not guilty of felony assault with a deadly weapon on an officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest. More about the Christopher and King cases can be found at http://bit.ly/pNJFc9 and http://bit.ly/riM2UN