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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / OXNARD

Deliberations in Flinn Trial Continue

September 10, 1998|TRACY WILSON

The jury in the trial of Oxnard Police Officer Robert Flinn deliberated for a full day Wednesday without reaching a verdict in the federal civil rights case.

The panel of eight women and four men is expected to return today for further deliberations in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Flinn, 30, is accused of violating the rights of an unarmed burglary suspect, Juan Lopez, by allegedly beating him over the head with a metal flashlight during a 1996 arrest.

Prosecutors say the officer brutalized Lopez and then tried to cover it up by filing a false battery charge against him. Flinn has denied the charges.

The officer's trial began last week with testimony from Lopez and a former Oxnard police officer, David Hawtin, who told the jury he saw Flinn strike Lopez on the head with a flashlight.

Lopez, an unemployed heroin addict who admitted running from the scene of a burglary, testified that an officer hit him while he was trying to surrender after a foot chase through an Oxnard neighborhood.

Lopez told the jury that he was struck on the head four to seven times with "full force" blows from a heavy metal flashlight. Lopez suffered a one-inch gash over his left eye and a bump on the back of his head--injuries that the defense maintains were too minor to corroborate Lopez's story.

Testifying in his own defense, Flinn said he hit Lopez with a "judo-like" punch to the chest--not on the head--and knocked him to the ground with a leg sweep.

The officer, a seven-year veteran of the Oxnard police force, said he never used excessive force during the arrest. The defense suggested that Lopez sustained his injuries when he was knocked to the ground.

Flinn's trial in federal court started more than a year after he was acquitted by a Ventura County jury on police brutality charges. The jury deadlocked on two other charges.

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