Among the parade of horribles San Diego political and law enforcement leaders said would happen if surveillance video of a disputed police shooting was released was that potential jurors would be biased against the officer by seeing the video. This, they said, would harm the officer’s right to a fair trial.

Now that the video has been made public, San Diego officials are saying the opposite: The region has plenty of available jurors.

The flip-flop comes in legal filings made in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased man, Fridoon Rawshan Nehad. Last April, San Diego police officer Neal Browder shot and killed Nehad, who was unarmed and mentally ill. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to prosecute Browder, saying the officer was right to feel threatened by Nehad’s behavior.

The city’s original argument about the potential for problems finding an impartial jury was made in a September filing, when it was trying to prevent the release of video footage showing Browder shooting Nehad.


Support Independent Journalism Today

 What benefits do VOSD members get?

But a judge cleared the way for the video’s release in late December.

Now, the city is responding to an effort by lawyers from Nehad’s family to move their lawsuit out of San Diego. The lawyers for Nehad’s family say that two press conferences held by Dumanis – including one where she pre-emptively released edited video of the shooting before the judge’s order would have allowed it to happen – unfairly slammed Nehad. Dumanis’ actions, Nehad’s family says, mean potential jurors in San Diego would be biased in favor of the officer.

Nonsense, the city argues in its filing:

The location of the alleged wrong is here in San Diego and the community has an interest in resolving this dispute at home – especially since it alleges the wrong doing of a public servant.

Contrast this with what the city said in its legal filing opposing the video’s release:

The requested release will damage the interests of the City and Officer Browder in the present action, by tainting the jury. Because Plaintiffs seek punitive damages, the inflammatory effect of the release and subsequent manipulation of the evidence would be particularly damaging should the jury be called to assess such damages. As discussed above, the increased incidence of unprovoked violence against San Diego police reflects growing public animosity toward our community’s officers in general – fair or not. And members of that public, including potential jurors, have been deluged with negative media coverage regarding this particular case.

The city’s opposition to moving the case out of San Diego makes no mention of Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman’s prior stance about a tainted jury pool.

And the city did something novel to prove its point that the potential jury pool here is fine.

It paid a firm to conduct a public opinion poll about the case after the shooting video was released. The firm found that two-thirds of San Diegans hadn’t heard about Nehad’s death and overwhelmingly those that were aware of the case are neutral or positive toward the family’s lawsuit.

A hearing on the request from Nehad’s family to move the location of the case is scheduled for Jan. 11.

    This article relates to: Must Reads, Police, Public Safety

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.