Officer Wayne Simoes Found Not Guilty
Posted by Shaun Dawson on May 28, 2009
After a 5-day trial, it took the jury of 8 men and 4 women just over 5 hours to find Officer Wayne Simoes,39, of the Yonkers Police Dept. not guilty of violating Irma Marquez’ civil rights.
Officer Simoes had faced 10 years in prison if convicted of body-slamming Irma Marquez, 44, face-first into the floor of La Fonda restaurant on March 3, 2007, breaking her jaw and causing extensive injuries that required her hospitalization. The incident was captured on the restaurant’s surveillance camera.
The video was shown numerous times throughout the 5-day trial. Prosecutor Anna Skotko had told the jurors, “Trust your eyes.” An FBI expert said the video’s quality was good enough to show what happened.
John Liberatore, a fellow officer who was present, testified that he saw Simoes lift Marquez off the floor from behind and throw her down. He said he then turned to his partner and, using an expletive, asked “What the … just happened here?“
The police captain at the scene, Edward Geiss, testified that at the time, he felt Simoes’ action “probably involved excessive force.” On the other hand, he said he didn’t think Simoes intended to hurt Marquez “the way he did.”
Then the defense team for Wayne Simoes went to work. They called on the services of a video expert, Grant Fredericks.
“In this video she was dropped, clearly,” Grant Fredericks said.
Fredericks, who has taught forensic video analysis at the FBI’s training academy in Virginia, testified that frame-by-frame analysis of the video led him to conclude that Marquez was dropped. He said that the restaurant’s video system captured only 15 frames per second, less than the standard television broadcast. That, he said led to the system saving only a fraction of what actually happened from second to second.
He said the only way to determine what happened is to look at the video frame by frame, essentially to break the video down to still photographs.
“You can’t possibly understand what the video is telling you without doing that,” he said. “It goes by too fast.”
The owner of La Fonda restaurant, Julian Santos, also testified saying that Simoes did not throw Marquez to the ground.
“He picked her up and it seemed like she lost her balance and fell,” Julian Santos said, testifying through an interpreter.
In order to convict Simoes of violating Irma Marquez’ civil rights the jury had to find that Wayne Simoes intentionally caused her harm. Apparently after hearing from the defense witnesses, they were unable to do so.
Defense lawyer Andrew Quinn said that by showing the jurors stills from the video, he was able to prove that the takedown of Marquez was an accident and that Simoes had “no intent or desire to hurt Ms. Marquez or violate her civil rights.“
Simoes seemed stunned when the verdict was read. He expelled his breath loudly several times, then wiped his eyes with a tissue and hugged his lawyers and his wife. Simoes said outside that he felt bad for Marquez. He thanked his lawyers, his wife, his colleagues and everyone who “saw through all the garbage.“
Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett welcomed the jury’s verdict, saying he always believed what happened was an accident. “Police Officer Simoes never intended, in my opinion, to hurt this woman,” he said. “It was a mistake.”
Marquez, who filed an $11 million lawsuit against Simoes and the city, suffered a broken jaw and concussion in the incident. She was charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental procedure, but a Yonkers City Court jury cleared her of those charges in May last year. A couple of weeks later she filed her lawsuit in federal court. It is still pending.
Neither Marquez nor Simoes testified at the trial.