FREE PRESS — "In the trial over the violent break-up of a demonstration, a former
deputy police chief testified that the club-wielding police who knocked
reporters down were acting outside of the rules set out by the Los
Angeles Police Department for dealing with reporters," reports Kie Akiba for Courthouse News Service.
On behalf of a camerawoman who was knocked to the ground, Robert Jarchi
from the firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, asked former deputy
chief Michael Hillman whether the police officers used reasonable force
toward his client, FOX TV camerawoman Patricia Ballaz.
wrote a crowd control manual for LAPD in the 1992 and he also wrote an
80-page report on the events of May 1, 2007 in MacArthur Park west of
downtown Los Angeles. He said the actions by the policemen that day in
surging through the park, swinging batons at those in their path
specifically including members of the press, violated police department
rules on crowd control.
Jarchi said as part of his questioning
that the police guideline states that all people have freedom of speech
and not only does the policeman recognize the freedom of speech but has
the responsibility to actively protect it. The guideline says further
that "a well-informed public is essential for the existence of a
After showing a video clip of a police
officer beating Ballaz with a baton and shoving her and FOX TV reporter
Christina Gonzalez on the ground, Jarchi asked whether "knocking her
camera off her shoulder interfered with her rights" to which
Hillman agreed that it did interfere with her right as a reporter.
when Jarchi asked Hillman if he saw any reporters use any force toward
the police officers in the video clip, Hillman answered, "I did not see
from the media any level of force."
He added, "They had no
justification to use batons against the media."
For the LAPD, lawyer
Jessica Brown asked a well-loaded question, inquiring of Hillman whether
the media "have any special rights to be at the riot."
Hillman answered that although under the law they do, under LAPD policy
they do not.
"Is the position of advantage important for
officers?" Brown asked.
"Yes," Hillman answered.
further said that the police officers are told to maintain themselves at
a distance so they have the space and time to act if they need to.
Also, he agreed that the policemen can use reasonable force to gain
cooperation and that a push is reasonable to gain compliance if the
reporters were told to move many times.
Moving to damages, the
lawyers for camerawoman Ballaz put clinical psychologist Nora Baladerian
on the witness stand.
Baladerian received her Ph.D. in
psychology from Sierra University in Santa Monica, California and has
been working as a psychologist for about 31 years.She specializes in
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has been treating Ballaz for
the past 3 years.
"She first came in May 8, 2007," Baladerian
said."She explained that all the sudden she was attacked from her blind
side and she went down with the camera. She was also struck on her body
by a police officer by a baton. The whole thing happened to her in such
an unexpected way."
Asked how the attack affected Ballaz, the
psychologist testified it destroyed a sense of loyalty and trust Ballaz had toward
the police for years. To the TV reporter, the policemen were
colleagues, said the psychologist.
For the city, Brown first
attacked Baladerian's credentials. She asked whether Sierra University
was accredited by California Psychological Association. When Baladarian
answered no, Brown further asked if Baladerian knew that Sierra
University has been accused of fraud according to a LA Times news
article from August 1990. Again, Baladerian answered no.
Baladerian also seemed to have billed Ballaz twice — one for acute
stress disorder and another for post-traumatic disorder — for one of
their therapy sessions, the cross-examiner pointed out.
subject of physical harm to the plaintiffs, Dr. Aliza Lifshitz testified
on Friday as the internist for Ballaz and another plaintiff, FOX TV
reporter Christina Gonzalez.
Lifshitz said that before May 1,
2007, Ballaz had persistent neck, back, shoulder, hand, and foot pain
due to her job as a camerawoman, carrying a camera that weighs about 30
to 40 pounds on her shoulder all the time.
However, Ballaz did
not need to get any treatment for her pain before the May Day rally,
said Lifshitz. That was because her condition was not bad enough to need
When he saw his patient on May 2, 2007, Ballaz had
an immense amount of pain in multiple areas of the body. Dr. Robert
Klapper, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group's Chief Orthopaedic surgeon,
testified that the camerawoman's pains were exacerbated due to the
During her cross-examination of both Lifshitz and
Klapper, the assistant city attorney asked whether the doctors' claims
about Ballaz's injuries are based on an objective or subjective
assessment of the patient's pain.
Lifshitz replied that she
based her conclusions on what Ballaz told her and what other doctors
said about Ballaz's injuries. But she emphasized that Ballaz did not
require any treatment prior to May 1.
During the course of the
testimony, Judge Highberger sustained objections from both sides.
Hillman's direct testimony, he sustained the objection from the defense
and told Jarchi to be more specific in his questions. Highberger said
that asking Hillman the importance for media to report use of force is
vague, but reporting use of excessive force is not.
"It is part
of law enforcement to uphold the law," said Hillman said. But, he said,
"I believe there were times throughout the event where the media could