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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

December, 2006

 

Has Justice Been Served In The Death Of Carry Grimes?
By David Anderson

I, along with the Brayton Purcell firm in Novato and Andrew Schwartz in Walnut Creek, represented the widow, children, and parents of Cary Grime in a Federal Court lawsuit arising from Cary's death in the hands of the Sheriff's Department. We believe this is the largest settlement ever against the Marin Sheriff's Department involving the use excessive force and was not the result of the County and it's insurance companies concern over legal costs but rather its knowledge the evidence against the involved deputies and the Department itself was overwhelming and likely would result in a verdict against it if the case went to trial.
In the 9/15/06 article Sheriff Doyle is quoted as saying the following:

1. "I didn't think they had done anything wrong" referring to the four deputies at the scene of the arrest. Nothing could be further from the truth based upon the actual evidence in the case.

There were two eyewitnesses at the scene. The first observed the initial interaction between deputy Harrison and Grime, observed Harrison tackle Grime as he peacefully walked away, saw Harrison get on top of Grime, pin him down and hit Grime with something. At no time did he see Grime resist or struggle in any fashion. The second, Taffy Lavine, is the daughter of a retired San Rafael Police lieutenant and who arrived on the scene as testified both at the Coroner's inquest and in deposition, that she was driving toward the intersection where she saw Grime pinned to the ground and both Deputy Harrison and Blasi on top of him, pinning his head to the ground with a foot, and wrenching his arm behind his back in and contorted, unnatural position. She testified that the officers were using excessive force, that Grime was not resisting in any fashion but only shouting for help and expressing concern for his life and limb. She watched the two deputies jerk him to his feet by handcuffs and walk him over to Harrison's patrol car. At no time did he resist, kick, try to attack the nine deputies and police officers at the scene or try to kick out window in the car. The only evidence of Cary being, as Doyle puts it, "completely out of control' was the self-serving testimony of the defendants. Cary was never able to give his version of the events.

Department policy required that a medical clearance be obtained prior to transportation to the jail of any arrestee who sustained notable injuries in the events involved . Cary had a large laceration on his right wrist which required suturing at Kaiser after he was transferred there in a coma. The laceration resulted from him being jerked to his feet by the handcuffs. He also had multiple abrasions and contusions to his face, head and torso. Had he been treated before jailed, he would be alive.

2. "Hobbling is widely used by law enforcement officers-and the policy is not changing". This is not a true statement.

All federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and US Marshalls, ban the use of hobbles. So does the CHP and the LA County Sheriff's Department, one of the largest in the country and one often targeted in Civil Rights violations, excessive use of force and brutality cases. Paramedics will not accept hobbled prisoners due to concern that the hobbles interfere with breathing and can result in asphyxiation and heart attack , which happened to Cary. Paramedics were not called to the scene and instead Cary was taken to the jail in Deputy Harrison's squad car.

The Sheriff's Department DID change one of its policies directly as a result of Mr. Grimes's death. The Marin County Jail captain issued an order shortly after the incident preventing the acceptance of hobbled prisoners brought into the jail. For some strange reason, Doyle refuses to ban the use of hobbles by his deputies in the field, while they use their own, not department issued hobbles. Doyle apparently doesn't have a problem with such conflicting policies.

Not only does Doyle allow the deputies to buy their own hobbles, the Department doesn't train them in the proper and efficient use of hobbles. There is uncontradicted testimony from the deputies at the scene and the jail that they had difficulty in both putting them on and taking them off. In the jail cell, the jail video presented at the Coroner's Inquest and testimony proves that it took almost 20 minutes to remove the hobbles from the motionless prisoner. They ultimately were unable to remove them and had to cut them off. Also, while the San Rafael Police department allows hobbles, they are trained not to position the legs greater than 90 degrees to the ground. Harrison pushed Grime's legs well past 90 degrees to the point where they were only 6 inches from the buttocks according to his deposition testimony. Such an extreme position hyper-arches the back making expansion of the lungs much more difficult.

All of this evidences why hobbles should be banned but if not, then the equipment should be issued by the department and deputies trained in the proper use of them.

3. "Two medical experts testified that hobbling had nothing to do with the death."

There was only one medical expert who testified in this case and that was Kelly Arthur MD, the outside medical examiner hired by Ken Holmes, the Coroner, to do the autopsy. She testified at both the Inquest and at her deposition. At her deposition she was asked if being hobble played a role in his death. Her response:

"I believe that the restraint and the struggle of restraining him played a role in his death." Dr. Arthur went to explain that the physical exertion and stress of the struggle and being restrained resulted in the "further increasing his adrenaline surging through his blood that could have a bad effect on his heart.

I am deeply concerned that our Sheriff would make such an irresponsible and apparently deliberately false statement in order to curry favorable public opinion.

A pathologist we hired also did an autopsy, reviewed the coroner's report, and all other available medical records and descriptions of the events and concluded that indeed the hobbling compromised Grimes's breathing, leading to oxygen starvation, heart attack, brain death and 2 days later, death. The expert was prepared to testify but did not because of the settlement.

4. "He had toxic levels of narcotics in his system." There was no such testimony. Although Doyle doesn't specify what drug he is referring to, the cocaine found was a metabolite, or inactive byproduct, and the amount could not determined. At her deposition, Dr. Arthur testified "Yes" in response to the question of counsel: "Would it be fair to say that you don't know how much cocaine that he had in his system at the time of his cardiac arrest?" Our privately retained pathologist reached the exact same conclusion.

Again, the only two qualified experts who reached conclusions on critical issues in determining the cause of death refute, not support, Doyle's public statements.

5. "The quantity of drugs in Grime's body coupled with 'excited delirium' caused his heart to speed up."

This is another apparently deliberately false, or at best, an inexcusably uninformed statement for an elected official in high office to make.

At deposition, Dr. Arthur was asked if she thought excited delirium killed Grime. Her response: "I don't think that the evidence is good for excited delirium in the decedent." She explained that for such a condition to be involved, hypothermia, or low body temperature, and extreme behavior manifestation would need to be present and they were not. She stated again:

"I would say in my opinion this is not a case of excited delirium."

Our pathologist again reached the very same conclusion.

Separate from the shocking misstatements of evidence and facts which revealed what did and did not happen 3 years ago, another equally disturbing discovery occurred during the litigation. The lengthy official incident report was prepared not by Deputy Harrison but rather a lawyer provided to him in the early morning hours after Cary was transferred to Kaiser Hospital. Harrison testified at his deposition that he went to the Marin City substation and met with a Sergeant and an attorney to go over his report. He said that he "dictated" the report while it was being entered into the Department's data base by the attorney.

We feel that this procedure is inappropriate since information can be filtered, changed, or left out. In fact, Harrison testified to some important observations of Grimes state of sobriety at the scene which were not in the report, underscoring the importance of having the involved deputies prepare the report, not someone else.

For all of these reasons, the Grime family strongly questions the Sheriff's sincerity when he says Cary's death was a tragedy and that he "feels sorry for the family." We all are saddened by the recent failure of the Board of Supervisors heed the recommendation of the civil grand jury to appoint an independent, civilian, blue-ribbon oversight panel to work with the Sheriff's Department in improving relations with the Marin community. Hopefully, the Board will reconsider its decision in light of the proven circumstances of Cary Grimes's death. If so, perhaps some good will come of this preventable loss of life so that it doesn't happen again.


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