Police Beating Victims May Be Prosecuted a Fourth Time

Categories: Crime, Law & Order
SFPD's use-of-force trainer says this is the result of proper law enforcement technique
olo County prosecutors are weighing wether to opt for a fourth trial of two West Sacramento brothers after separate juries failed to convict them three prior times on charges of resisting arrest and fighting a police officer. The Sacramento Bee cited a Stanford expert as saying he'd never seen three retrials.

In response to our inquiry, a Yolo County DA spokesman said it wasn't yet certain whether there would be another trial of Fermin and Ernesto Galvan: "Our evaluation of this latest jury's consideration of the case is ongoing," said Jonathan Raven.

A key aspect of the three failed cases was expert testimony from Don Cameron, a police tactics expert who regularly trains San Francisco police officers in use of force. Cameron also routinely advises, and testifies on behalf of, The City and County of San Francisco in cases involving allegations of police brutality.

The defense attorney on the case said he can't wait to get Cameron on the stand again.

"I think we'll be even more ruthless with him," said San Francisco's Tony Palik. "My opinion of him grows weaker and weaker as each day goes by. Every time he seems more bought and paid for. And we're not going to let him get away with that."

Palik represents Ernesto Galvan, a Mexican immigrant who in 2005 was beaten so badly by South Sacramento cops that he still suffers from severe brain damage. A pending $13 million civil suit against police would become severely undermined if the Galvans were found guilty of charges related to resisting arrest or fighting with an officer.

The lawyer said the a key moment the most recent trial occurred when his co-counsel cross-examined Cameron.

"The best part was when she asked him whether he'd be able to testify against a police officer, because doing so would mean he wouldn't get business for his training classes," Palik said. "I don't think he had an answer for that."

Palik said he expects the Yolo County District Attorney's office to trot out Cameron again, because he has not seen any submission suggesting a change in previous witness lists.

We also left a telephone message for Cameron. We'll report his comments when he gets back to us.

In February, we reported that the San Francisco City Attorney's office had over the years paid Cameron $331,431 as an expert witness in 114 cases. A deputy city attorney said she and her colleagues rely on Cameron because of the soundness of his expertise. Defense attorneys had another view.

"I don't know if he's ever seen a shooting or a use of force he didn't like," we quoted San Francisco criminal defense attorney John Scott as saying.

In South Sacramento, Palik says juries seem to be more skeptical of Cameron with every passing Galvan trial

In 2005, the Galvans had been talking by a riverbank in the early morning when police approached them. A fight ensued, and additional officers joined in. In the end, Ernesto Galvan's head was bludgeoned so badly he was left in a month-long coma.

In February we cited a transcript from one of the trials where Palik cross examined Cameron

"What about two batons against an unarmed man with bare hands and feet? Are you saying that's appropriate?" Palik asked.
"Yes, sir, I am," Cameron replied.
"And you were saying that an unarmed man who is kneeling on the ground, that would be appropriate as well. Is that true?" Palik said.
"If the person was continuing to swing at the officers in an attempt to assault them, it's perfectly appropriate," Cameron said.
 "And he's not trying to get up from the ground. It's still appropriate?"
Palik said.
"Yes, sir," Cameron answered.
Palik has moved for the fourth case to be dismissed. But he nonetheless said he relishes relishes the prospect of again cross-examining San Francisco taxpayers' top police brutality expert.

"When he testifies, he's like Dick Cheney; that's the only way you can describe it," Palik said. "He smirks, and he has this way of testifying where he smiles and is really polite. But he smiles like that when he's testifying about people's heads being bashed in. 'Yes, ma'am: That would look like a baton strike to me.'"

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly  

My Voice Nation Help

Now Trending

From the Vault


©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.