Jury deadlocked in trial of white Ohio CO accused of attacking black inmate

The 11-1 deadlock along racial lines was on the most serious charges against Cuyahoga County Jail officer John Wilson


Adam Ferrise
The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County jury voted along racial lines when it acquitted a white jail officer of beating a black inmate, the jury foreperson said.

Pam Turner in an interview with cleveland.com said 11 white jurors voted for a not-guilty verdict against Cuyahoga County Jail officer John Wilson and the lone black juror held out for a guilty verdict after nearly three full days of deliberation.

Turner said she didn’t believe race played a factor in the jury’s decision.

The jury deadlocked on the most serious charges against Wilson — a second-degree felony count of felonious assault and a first-degree misdemeanor charge of interfering with civil rights.

Ohio Attorney General’s Office spokesman Steve Irwin said the office will seek another trial for those charges.

The jury acquitted Wilson of abduction and found co-defendant Cpl. Jason Jozwiak not guilty of falsification and interfering with civil rights, the only charges he faced. Prosecutors cannot seek to have another trial on those charges.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Wilson on Feb. 8, 2018 slammed inmate Joshua Castleberry to the ground. Castleberry’s teeth were knocked out, and one lodged in his nasal cavity, prosecutors said. Jozwiak was accused of preventing Castleberry from getting medical treatment after the attack.

Turner said the jurors believed Jozwiak did nothing wrong. She said the jury believed that the prosecutors did not prove that Wilson tried to hurt Castleberry on purpose.

She said race was not discussed during deliberations. She said the group had a brief discussion after someone asked if the other jurors would be more inclined to believe Wilson because he is an officer, over Castleberry, the inmate.

Both testified during the trial.

“People said no,” Turner said. “We all felt that Castleberry was just as believable. I don’t think anyone gave Wilson’s testimony more weight because he was an officer.”

She also said it was clear what happened to Castleberry “was wrong.”

“We all felt the problem was the system,” Turner said. “There is a lot wrong in the jail. There is a lot to be done to improve the jail. Just because they’re prisoners, they shouldn’t be treated like animals. They should be treated with respect.”

It was the first trial for any of the cases brought in the attorney general’s office criminal probe of the jail, where eight inmates died in 2018 and another died in May. Former warden Eric Ivey and two corrections officers accused of beating an inmate have pleaded guilty in their cases. Ivey and another corrections officer agreed to cooperate with the on-going investigation. Several other cases against former are current jail employees are pending.

Despite the jury’s decision, Turner said jurors still questioned Wilson’s actions.

She said the jurors were bothered by the two different statements Wilson gave to investigators. The first came after the incident and had little detail of what led to the incident. The second came weeks later with more detail and the accusation that Castleberry attacked him.

Video, or a lack thereof, were also key. No video existed because Wilson wasn’t wearing a body camera at the time and security cameras did not show an angle into the cell.

An FBI agent testified that they discovered evidence that the jail computer system allowed for any jail employee to have easy access to the jail videos and to delete or alter them.

Turner said she was turned off by the FBI agent’s testimony.

“I think that was [prosecutors] trying to muddy the waters,” Turner said.

She said that the jury relied heavily on what videos they did have, including one that showed Wilson checking the other cells in Castleberry’s pod. She said that video showed a calm Wilson walking to each cell and handcuffing one inmate for precautions before going into Castleberry’s cell.

Turner said the jury discussed at length if Wilson should have known Castleberry would suffer serious injuries if he wrestled him to the ground in the cell.

“They were trying to really draw a line that Wilson should have known that taking Castleberry down would cause all these injuries,” Turner said. “They wanted to know if Wilson was aware that if he took Castleberry down, he would possibly cause the injuries versus probably cause the injuries.”

The jury deliberated for nearly three full days before reaching its verdict. Turner said the initial vote split the jurors equally between guilty, not guilty and undecided. Over the course of the next three days that changed to 9-3 for not guilty.

The last vote they took ended 11-1. After that it became clear the lone holdout would not change his mind, she said.

“I think they had a hard time,” Turner said. “They wanted to make sure they got everything right. It was very emotional for me. I was so bothered I couldn’t sleep and was depressed.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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