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Hung Jury & Mistrial in Andy Lopez Protester's Resisting Arrest Trial in Sonoma County Court

If the video of the protest was not admitted into evidence, there probably would have been a guilty verdict, defense attorney says.

A Santa Rosa man's trial for resisting arrest at an Andy Lopez protest at Santa Rosa City Hall in December ended in a mistrial this afternoon when the jury could not reach unanimous verdicts.

The jury was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquitting Ramon Cairo of resisting arrest by force and deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction on a separate charge of resisting arrest.

The jury, which had been deliberating over three days, said further deliberations were unlikely to break the deadlock.

"I believe we came to the conclusion that we could not reach a conclusion," the jury forewoman said, ending the 6-day trial.

Judge Julie Conger then declared a mistrial. It's unknown yet if the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office will retry the case.

Both the defense and prosecuting attorneys will appear in court Friday to discuss the issue.

 Ramon Armando Cairo, 31, was charged with the two misdemeanor resisting arrest counts and a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace, but Conger dismissed that last count during the trial.

Cairo was arrested at the Santa Rosa City Council meeting on Dec. 10 where dozens of people, many carrying wooden crosses, protested the Oct. 22 fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

Two Santa Rosa police officers said they were struck by the wooden crosses outside the council chambers when the protesters tried to enter.

Cairo was arrested while he was speaking inside the chambers to Council members Gary Wysocky and Julie Combs during an interruption of the council meeting.

After the Conger declared a mistrial, Cairo said he was happy with the outcome, calling it "a great victory."

"Everything we alleged we proved in court," he said.

Juror Peter Chamberlain of Santa Rosa said the testimony of Santa Rosa police Officer Brad Connors was inconsistent and the video of the protest was inconclusive.

"The video outside the council was not a clear shot. There was too much movement in the video," Chamberlain said.

Cairo's attorney Izaak Schwaiger said the mistrial shows "there are still people in society who value freedom of expression and democracy and are willing to tolerate the growing pains of a free society.

"This is just the kind of loud noise that happens whenever society is taking a turn for the better. We need to get close to where we were before Andy Lopez was shot," Schwaiger said.

Schwaiger said if the video of the protest had not been admitted into evidence, there probably would have been a guilty verdict.

"The police didn't know we had the video," he said.

Attorney Jonathan Melrod with the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez said the mistrial is a vindication for free speech rights.

"We thank the jury for fairly adjudicating the issue and we hope the District Attorney will let it lie and not waste county resources on a retrial," Melrod said.

--Bay City News
Will Shonbrun May 09, 2014 at 07:00 PM
Sonoma County has needed a civilian police review board for at least 20-years. In the 1990s and early 2000s there were so many fatal shootings by police of "suspects" and deaths of people while incarcerated it warranted a federal investigation. One of the recommendations of the then Grand Jury was for an independent review board of questionable police actions. It was all for naught. The board of supervisors has never approved it and so we are still living (or dying) with its consequences. Police agencies, city or county, cannot investigate themselves or one another, including the county District Attorneys office, and there be any hope of a just and impartial finding. The only hope of justice for 13-year-old Andy Lopez or any future victim of unwarranted police actions is the establishment of an independent police review board as exists in many cities across the nation.

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