Jury shown video clips alleging abuse of autistic adult

Courtroom observers wonder what is actually seen in the grainy video

Michael Dale Garritson, who has been a Registered Nurse for thirty years, is accused of felony abuse in his handling of a 23-year-old autistic man in his care, last summer. Evidence in a jury trial began this morning, April 8, 2013.

Today the jury was shown many little snippets of video, each video clip lasted from about 17 seconds to perhaps 30 seconds; these were little episodes of nurse Garritson trying to return his autistic patient Jamey to bed, or stopping Jamey after he started hitting himself. Garritson watched over Jamey on the overnight shift, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m, in July and August of 2012, according to testimony. Sometimes Garritson’s deep, masculine voice can be heard softly saying, “No, no” as he stopped his patient hitting himself.

The mother of the autistic man, Kim Oakley, was in the witness box all day. She said she set up a camera that was motion-activated, to record what happened in her son's room, while she was away.

Mrs. Oakley described her son, Jamey: “He’s still in diapers” and “he has never spoken.” She said he cannot feed himself, he sucks his thumb, and “he’s very strong.” Mrs. Oakley said that loud noises can set off Jamey, and he has even broken his protective headgear with poundings by his own fists.

Sixty-two-year-old Michael Dale Garritson was one of the caregivers for the severely autistic 23-year-old man at the Oakley family home in Valley Center, while his mother was out of the country for about a month last summer. The two men are almost equal in height, but the older man has a much stockier, heavier build.

Mrs. Oakley claimed that in the video clips shown to the jury today, she could see Garritson kicking and shoving and “gouging the eyes” of her son. Mrs. Oakley described Garritson as “throwing” her son to the floor, and “twisting” Jamey’s arm until it might break. Some courtroom observers expressed doubt as to whether her descriptions matched what was actually visible in the short, grainy clips seen today on two big monitors.

The jury of 11 women and 1 man is expected to hear testimony for about a week. Michael Dale Garritson pleads not guilty to seven felony counts of abuse of dependant adult.

Trial will resume tomorrow morning, April 9, 2013, before the Honorable Judge Blaine K. Bowman, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista, California.

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