Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Prosecutors: Jorg used excess force in Owensby case



By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In opening statements this morning, prosecutors said say Cincinnati police officer Robert "Blaine" Jorg used excessive force when he and four other officers wrestled with Roger Owensby, Jr. Nov. 7.

        The officers were trying to handcuff Mr. Owensby after chasing him across a Roselawn parking lot.

        Prosecutors say the College Hill man was "not struggling for his liberty, but for his life."

        Blood and fluids that flowed from Mr. Owensby’s mouth were signs that he was dying, prosecutors said on the opening day of Officer Jorg’s trial on felony involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor assault charges.

        Defense attorney R. Scott Croswell told jurors that "at no time did my client limit Mr. Owensby’s ability to breathe."

        He acknowledged that mistakes were made in this incident, which occurred while officers were on a drug investigation.

        After the significant struggle his client had with Mr. Owensby, Mr. Croswell said officers should have checked the suspect out before putting him in a cruiser, where he lapsed into unconsciousness. He later died at University Hospital; the coroner ruled the death a homicide by asphyxiation.

        Before this morning’s testimony, the 12 jurors and four alternates toured the scene at a Roselawn gas station where the chase and apprehension of Mr. Owensby took place.

        Officer Jorg is accused of killing Mr. Owensby with a choke hold that was applied too tightly.

        Defense attorneys say they intend to prove that medical examiners made a mistake when they determined that Mr. Owensby’s death was a homicide.

        A jury of seven women and five men, along with four male alternates, was impaneled Monday after more than four hours of jury selection. The jury consists of 10 whites and two blacks. The alternates are white. Their jobs range from a factory laborer to a deputy sheriff.

        Mr. Croswell told jurors Monday that he intends to ‘‘sharply challenge’’ the coroner’s findings on Mr. Owensby.

        And, despite requesting a change of venue because he believed he wouldn’t be able to seat an impartial jury, Mr. Croswell did not object to any of the people who were eventually named to the panel.

        Court officials anticipated that it might be days before a jury could be seated in this case and sent 75 prospective jurors to the courtroom.

        About 23 people were excused during preliminary questioning Monday because of work conflicts, doctor’s appointments, lack of day care or in one case, contributing to the defense funds of Officers Jorg and Patrick E. Caton.

        Officer Caton is accused of striking Mr. Owensby and was charged with misdemeanor assault. His trial begins Wednesday.

        At some point on Nov. 7, after being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car, Mr. Owensby lost consciousness, officials said. He was pronounced dead at University Hospital.

        Both trials are expected to last two weeks.

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