Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The testimony: Key moments in the trial




By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Here is a recap of the key witnesses and evidence reviewed during the seven-day trial of Robert “Blaine” Jorg, the Cincinnati police officer charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault in Roger Owensby Jr.'s death:

Witnesses

        • Aerial St. Clair:
The 19-year-old Roselawn woman testified she saw Officer Jorg put Mr. Owensby in a choke hold. The defense argued she is not a credible witness because she also testified she smoked marijuana a short time before the confrontation and had previously purchased marijuana from Mr. Owensby.

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        • Sgt. Anthony Carter: Assigned to the Cincinnati police homicide unit, he testified the division outlaws the use of choke holds. “(It's) illegal, improper and unethical,” he said. “It would be excessive use of force. It is not necessary.”

        • Officer David Hunter Jr.: One of five officers who struggled with Mr. Owensby, he testified Officer Jorg did not have Mr. Owensby in a choke hold. Instead, Officer Jorg had his left arm around Mr. Owensby's forehead and eyes and was cradling his head. He testified Officer Patrick Caton straddled Mr. Owensby after he'd been handcuffed and punched him repeatedly in the back.

        • Dr. Daniel L. Schultz: The staff pathologist with the Hamilton County coroner's office testified that a choke hold is “consistent with autopsy findings,” but he could not say with certainty that a choke hold caused Mr. Owensby's death. There was no evidence of damage to Mr. Owensby's neck. He contended Mr. Owensby died on the ground before being taken to the Golf Manor cruiser where his body was found.

        • Officer Todd Brunner: The defensive tactics trainer at Cincinnati Police Academy testified choke holds are not taught at the academy because they are considered deadly force. He added that if a suspect is in a struggle with multiple officers who have different parts of his body it would be appropriate for an officer to hold his head to keep him from flailing around.

Key evidence

        • Videotape from the surveillance camera of the Sunoco gas station where Mr. Owensby was
apprehended: It shows Officers Jorg, Caton and Hunter talking with Mr. Owensby outside the station. Mr. Owensby raises his shirt to show officers he has no weapons. But he suddenly bolts, and the officers can be seen jumping after him.

        • Videotape from an in-car camera of a Cincinnati patrol cruiser: It shows Officer Jorg pacing in front of the camera, carrying his nightstick in his hand. His shirt is stained and dirty, and the left arm is covered in splotches of blood and what medical experts say is fluid from Mr. Owensby's lungs. He steps off camera but is heard explaining to Sgt. William “Pete” Watts that he had Mr. Owensby in “a head wrap the entire time. ... I was trying to hold him down.”

        • Officer Jorg's left sleeve: The blood- and fluid-stained sleeve was cut from his shirt shortly after Mr. Owensby was placed in the rear of the police cruiser. It was found in the trunk of Officer Jorg's cruiser. Prosecutors say it is proof that Officer Jorg used excessive force because it contains evidence of lung fluid that proves Mr. Owensby was dying as he struggled with officers.
       



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