Testimony began Monday in federal court in the case of a juvenile who alleges he was beaten while being held at the juvenile detention center at Pine Bluff last year.
Chadarious Avery, now 15, and his mother, Karen Walls, are suing Roderick Shelby, who is chief of staff for Juvenile Judge Earnest Brown Jr., claiming that Shelby beat Avery while escorting Avery back to the detention center part of the facility after an appearance in court.
The suit also names Sheriff Gerald Robinson, who is in charge of the juvenile detention center, alleging Robinson failed to train and supervise Shelby and other juvenile probation officers.
Shelby’s attorney, Eugene McKissic, said in his opening statement that Shelby was “doing his job” when he escorted Avery out of the courtroom after Avery stood up and began cursing his court appointed attorney and Brown ordered Avery removed from the courtroom.
Avery reportedly continued cursing Shelby while being escorted down the corridor from the courtroom to a door leading to the detention center, a distance McKissic said was about 30 feet.
“You decide how much training you need to walk a person 30 feet from one door to the other,” McKissic said to the 11-member jury seated to hear the case.
A 12th juror, who was selected Monday morning, was released by Federal Judge Kristine Baker just before opening statements began at 2 p.m. Monday because a member of the juror’s family had been involved in an automobile accident.
Shelby said Avery continued to curse him, and when Avery said “you’re going to be the next Mr. Walls, that got my attention.”
McKissic had previously told the jurors that Leonard “Sandy” Wall was a guard at the juvenile center who was beaten to death in 2010 during the escapee of three juvenile detainees.
“He walked up to me, swung and I sort of turned and he hit me in the shoulder,” Shelby said. “I grabbed the collar of his jumpsuit and we sort of tussled. He hit me in the face and I hit him back.”
After getting through the door into the detention center, Shelby said Avery broke away from juvenile officer Jose Rivera, who was trying to hold him, and attacked Shelby a second time before Avery could be restrained.
“Avery threw the first blow and Mr. Shelby was protecting himself, “McKissic said to the jury. “It’s your decision on who threw the first blow.”
Fayetteville attorney Jason Boyeskie, who is representing Avery and Karen Walls, said the trial is “about three points.
“No training, no control and no accountability, and more importantly, about protection,” Boyeskie said.
After the incident, Robinson ordered an internal affairs investigation into Shelby’s actions after Karen Walls filed a formal complaint, and fired Shelby from his position as a part-time officer as a result of that investigation which indicated Shelby had used excessive force.
“Nothing in the use of force policy says you use your fist to the head, or you slam a head into a door,” Boyeskie said. “At the juvenile detention center, he (Avery) deserved to be protected. That’s his constitutional right.”
In his opening, McKissic made reference to one of Boyeskie’s points, asking the jury to consider “what kind of training did his mother give him (Avery) to talk like that to a judge and in court.”
Hot Springs attorney C. Burt Newell, who is representing Robinson and Shelby in their official capacities, said “we’re brought here because he (Boyeskie) wants you to believe his client got into a fight with Shelby because Shelby was not trained.
“You won’t find a better trained individual than Shelby,” Newell said. “He was trained and certified as a guard (at the Arkansas Department of Correction) before he was hired by the sheriff’s office. He went to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Academy and in the 13 and-a-half years he worked there, he worked himself up from patrol deputy to captain and at the time he retired, he was the number five ranking officer in the sheriff’s office.”
Newell also made reference to the use of force policy, saying if “he (Shelby) did violate policy, it was the farthest thing from anybody’s mind.”
The trial will continue Tuesday in the federal courtroom on the third floor of the main Post Office.