Man Who Pleaded Own Case Found Guilty Of Pushing Officer

May 05, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

An Edgewood man acting as his own attorney in Harford Circuit Court was convicted by a jury Friday of battery and resisting arrest, despite his claims that police beat him at his home in February 1990.

But the prosecution said the defendant, 59-year-old Robert W. Church, provoked the Feb. 2 confrontation by poking and pushing a deputy fromthe county Sheriff's Department.

Church, who said he is a registered patent agent, was found guilty by a jury of eight women and four men after seven days of testimony. The jurors reached their verdict after about six hours of deliberation.

The trial was presided over by Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron. Final disposition of the case is scheduled for May 23.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark W. Nelson said deputies and state police troopers responded to a reported domestic dispute at Church's home in the 600 block of Yorkshire Court.

The dispute was reported by a friend of the Church family who witnessed a struggle between Church and his son, Mark, according to testimony.

When the officers arrived, Mark Church told them he had an "altercation" with his father, who wasin the kitchen, Nelson said.

The deputy, Paul Wilkinson, went to the kitchen and asked Church if he needed any help.

"Wilkinson wasdoing the absolute minimum here to do his duty," Nelson told the jury during closing arguments. "He's not in there looking for someone tolock up. He's still trying to find out what's going on."

Church became angry and demanded that Wilkinson and four other officers with him leave, Nelson said. Church threw a telephone, although it did notstrike the officers, said Nelson.

The defendant then poked Wilkinson in the chest and tried to push him out of the way, Nelson said. At that point, the deputy decided to arrest Church and charge him withbattery.

But Church began struggling with Wilkinson and the officers when they attempted to handcuff him, Nelson said. The officers had to drag Church out of the house, because he continued to struggle, said Nelson.

Church, however, testified that he did not poke or push Wilkinson. He said he did not resist until the officers "tossed" him on the ground to search him.

"After I had the hell beaten out of me on the asphalt, I did resist," Church told the jury. "(The officers) treated me worse than a dog."

The defendant denied that he threatened to castrate and hang the officers while being held at the Sheriff's Department. He admitted that he called the deputies incompetent "nitwits" and "idiots."

Church argued during his closing statement that the police violated his constitutional right for protection against improper searches and seizures.

"That statement is what this entire case turns on," Church said. "Was it proper for the sheriffdeputies to come into my house without my knowledge?"

But Nelson argued that Wilkinson and the other officers took the correct steps when they entered Church's house. He said state law permits officers to enter a house when they believe an emergency exists.

"There's noquestion that the call was for a police emergency," Nelson said. "Itwas the kind of call where people get hurt."

Church, however, contended that the incident with his son was an emergency only to the caller.

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