Civil rights attorney takes CHP freeway beating case

Leanne Suter Image
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
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A high-profile civil rights attorney is coming to the defense of a woman who was punched repeatedly by a CHP officer along the 10 Freeway last week.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A high-profile civil rights attorney is coming to the defense of a woman who was punched repeatedly by a CHP officer along the 10 Freeway last week. The incident was caught on cellphone video.

Civil rights attorney John Burris is calling for a criminal investigation as the woman's family says they plan to sue.

An unidentified CHP officer repeatedly punched 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock along the 10 Freeway on July 1, and a motorist recorded the incident on his cellphone.

The beating has sparked outrage and calls of police brutality.

"What's on that video, obviously, is that she was struck any number of times, none of which seem to be justified," said Burris. "It's a clear case on its face of use of excessive force and violations of her civil rights."

Burris is now joining the case. Burris represented Oscar Grant's family after the 19-year-old was fatally shot by a BART Police officer in Oakland. The shooting was also captured on camera.

Burris is joining attorney Carree Harper in representing Pinnock's family, who spoke out Saturday about the violence.

"He punched and pounded on her. The only thing she could do was block her face," said Mayisha Adams, Pinnock's daughter.

The CHP says the officer was trying to stop Pinnock, who was walking in and out of traffic lanes when the violent confrontation occurred.

Neither Pinnock's family nor attorneys will say what she was doing on the freeway, only that the focus should be on the officer involved.

"I don't think there's anything in the policies themselves that they have in terms of training officers that would justify this level of brutality against a woman," said Burris.

Pinnock was taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

The officer, who has not been identified, is now on administrative leave as the department launches as full investigation.

Burris says the district attorney needs to investigate potential criminal conduct.

"That's not unreasonable to consider given the level of force that was used, and the number of punches that were given, and seemingly non-significant resistance on the part of the client," said Burris.

A group of civil rights leaders is scheduled to meet with the CHP commissioner to discuss the beating, and the policies, procedures and training of officers.