LANCASTER – A jury listened to opening statements Monday morning in the trial of Marco Chiclana, the man charged with several felony counts after a violent scuffle with deputies outside Antelope Valley Hospital nearly two years ago.
Chiclana’s family had called deputies to the hospital for assistance because Chiclana’s father was disoriented after surgery and trying to leave the hospital against medical advice. When deputies responded, Chiclana ended up in a fight with six deputies inthe parking lot, which was captured by hospital surveillance cameras on April 2, 2011. (View the video above)
Chiclana, who suffered multiple facial fractures and head injuries, is charged with battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest, attempted mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon for his role in the altercation.
Opening statements in the trial were given by both the prosecutor and Chiclana’s defense attorney Monday morning.
Prosecutor Jason Quirino said the whole case boiled down to Chiclana’s unwillingness to cooperate with deputies, which caused the situation to escalate into injury to Chiclana. Quirino used a PowerPoint presentation to break down several still frames from the surveillance video, while explaining the facts he would be relying on to prove his case.
The evidence would show that Chiclana’s father, Damaso Chiclana, had just got out of surgery and was trying to start his son’s white Nissan Xterra with a screwdriver in order to leave the hospital, Quirino told jurors. Family members struggled to remove Damaso Chiclana from the vehicle, and during the scuffle, Marco Chiclana was hit in the face with the screwdriver, Quirino said. The family contacted the sheriff’s department for help, and a single deputy responded to the call about a male Hispanic being stabbed in the face with a screwdriver, Quirino told jurors.
That deputy, Jeremy Esswein, would testify that he was unclear about who the victim was, who the suspect was, and who had the screwdriver, Quirino told jurors.
“He has limited information and perceives the situation as high risk,” Quirino said.
Deputy Esswein believed Marco Chiclana was the suspect because Chiclana appeared “agitated,” Quirino said. The deputy took Chiclana’s left arm and tried to search him for weapons, but when Chiclana pulled away, the deputy called for backup and became concerned for his safety, Quirino said.
“The deputy punches the defendant and the defendant punches right back,” Quirino said.
Other responding deputies saw the two men exchanging blows and attempted to subdue Chiclana, all the while saying “stop fighting” and “stop resisting,” Quirino told jurors.
Deputies used punches, knee strikes and flashlights to subdue Chiclana, who stopped resisting only after he was tasered, Quirino said.
“I think the evidence will show the defendant was injured, but it was because of his resisting officers,” Quirino told jurors.
“It’s not pretty,” Quirino said, before showing a 90-second video of the fight in its entirety.
Defense attorney Kris McFarren did not show the video during his opening statements, but called it “the most significant piece of evidence” in the case. McFarren urged jurors to use their own “judgement” and common sense” to interpret the video.
McFarren said Chiclana was a married father of two with no criminal record and had never been arrested. Chiclana and his family tried to get help from the hospital in keeping Damaso Chiclana admitted, but they were told the hospital could not keep a patient against the patient’s wishes, McFarren said.
The family contacted the sheriff’s department for help, and when the officer responded, Marco Chiclana approached the officer and attempted to shake the officer’s hand, McFarren told jurors.
“The evidence will show my client is attempting to tell deputy Esswein what’s going on,” McFarren said.
When the deputy tries to restrain Chiclana, family members and bystanders warn the deputy that he has the wrong guy, McFarren told jurors.
“Deputy Esswein decides ‘I need to take this guy down,’” McFarren said. “He hits him first, and he will admit that… and then all hell breaks loose.”
McFarren said the encounter left his client “battered, bloodied, and broken” on the pavement, and that Chiclana required surgery for his injuries.
But jurors were not there to decide if the deputies broke the law, McFarren said. They needed only to determine if the prosecution had proved its case against Chiclana without a reasonable doubt, McFarren said.
The trial is expected to last about three weeks, during which time the jury could hear from up to 60 witnesses, Superior Court Judge Lisa Chung said.