From: The Mercury News
By: Nico Savidge, 5/30/2019
A judge abruptly stopped an excessive force trial against a San Francisco County deputy on Thursday and threw out the criminal charge the deputy was facing for allegedly assaulting an inmate in a San Bruno jail in 2017.
On the 10th day of the trial against San Francisco County Sheriff’s Deputy Linton Martin, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald granted a motion from Martin’s attorney arguing that prosecutors had not provided a basis for the jury to find him guilty. The case was set to go to the jury soon: both the prosecution and the defense had rested and were preparing to make closing arguments.
With Buchwald’s ruling, Martin is acquitted of the single misdemeanor count of assault by a public officer that San Mateo County prosecutors charged him with in early 2018. The district attorney’s office cannot attempt to re-try the case.
Nicole Pifari, who represented Martin, said defense attorneys routinely ask judges to find that prosecutors have failed to prove their case as trials wrap up, but judges almost never grant the motions.
“This was not a case they should have tried,” Pifari said of the district attorney’s office. “The facts were not there, the evidence was not there.”
San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato disagreed with Buchwald’s decision.
“We think it’s a mistake,” Serrato said. “We think the jury should’ve been allowed to consider the evidence and come back with a verdict, (and) that decision should not have been taken from them.”
The incident at the center of the trial started when an inmate at San Francisco County’s San Bruno jail hit Martin in the face on June 21, 2017.
Prosecutors alleged that other deputies handcuffed the inmate, then an agitated Martin grabbed the man, pushed his head down, and punched him in the face “three or four” times before a sergeant and other deputies restrained Martin.
Pifari said Martin never punched the inmate, and said the deputy used appropriate force after he was assaulted by the man. Pifari also noted the man never complained of any injuries, and said witness accounts of the incident conflicted.