With jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict, a mistrial was declared Tuesday in the trial of a former Beaumont policeman who blinded a woman when he fired a high-power pepper-spray device-- which discharges propellant at 400 mph-- just inches away from her face.
After convening for less than an hour Tuesday morning, following four full days of deliberations, the panel weighing the fate of 38-year-old Enoch "Jeremy" Clark informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher that it could not work though an impasse, with the vote 10-2 in favor of convicting the ex-cop. Fisher declared the jury hopelessly deadlocked and ended proceedings.
Now, the District Attorney's office must decide if they will retry the case.
"Should we retry this case and the defendant is found guilty as currently charged, he would face a potential sentence ranging from misdemeanor probation to seven years in custody," Riverside County District Attorney Spokesman John Hall said.
A court date has been set for July 24 for a trial readiness conference, at which point the entire trial process will begin anew if the DA's office decides to go forward, according to Hall.
During this trial, the prosecutor condemned Clark for firing a JPX pepper spray gun, which discharges propellant at 400 mph, 10 inches from Hernandez's face while arresting her on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI. The prosecutor alleged the defendant lied to cover up his actions, telling investigators that he felt his life was threatened and he was "slipping off balance" while holding the device, causing it to fire prematurely.
"Yes, (Monique) is mouthy and drunk, but there is no way to justify his response," Carney said.
However, defense attorney Steve Sanchez blamed his client's superiors, inadequate training on the weapon, unclear instructions on how to use it and other factors for what transpired.
Sanchez said the JPX manufacturer's warnings on the minimum safe distance to fire the pepper pistol were confusing. He pointed to errors in the instruction manual, including a misplaced comma that suggested the weapon could be fired from one meter -- three feet -- away, instead of the 1.5 meters actually required.
The attorney said the Beaumont Police Department never gave officers an opportunity to test-fire the JPX pistols before carrying them on patrol. He said his client's decision to fire the gun was "made in a split second, and you can't second-guess the officer."
Dash-cam video from Clark's patrol car on the night of the confrontation showed Hernandez with her hands behind her back, jostling as Clark tries to handcuff her.
The lawman repeatedly tells the woman to "stop resisting" and "get your hands behind your back," while Hernandez answers, "I'm not resisting" and demands to know why she's being arrested.
The grainy black-and-white video clip runs two to three minutes, at the end of which Clark reaches for his belt and unholsters a device, firing it into Hernandez's face.
Meanwhile, Clark and the city of Beaumont are being sued in federal court for alleged civil rights violations. Los Angeles attorney Milton Grimes is representing Hernandez.
Clark was fired from the police department in July 2012.
– City News Service contributed to this report.