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  • SV De-Bug

Conflict of Interest? City's Expert Was Longtime SJPD Officer, Worked with Family of Vizzusi

As a countermeasure to the Nuñez family calling police practice expert Roger Clark, the City Attorney called Scott Seaman, former San Jose police officer. Immediately, the defense began asking Seaman about his background. He revealed he worked in SJPD from 1976-2002. He recounted leaving SJPD at the rank of captain and was offered a position as chief of police of Los Gatos. Throughout his testimony, Seaman suggested that “reasonable belief of an imminent threat” was the only standard that was needed to justify lethal force. 

In cross-examination, Pointer immediately honed in on Seaman’s bias. Pointer questioned him on his service in SJPD, which spanned nearly three decades. After Pointer began pressing Seaman on his connection to the case, Seaman admitted that he worked with Officer Vizzusi’s father and uncle during his time in SJPD. Beyond this clear conflict of interest, Pointer noted that Seaman was paid anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 by the defense to testify. He also revealed that while he was employed at SJPD, the department had a policy where he couldn't take a contract as an expert witness for plaintiffs in police brutality cases. 

Finally, Pointer tore into Seaman’s report. First, his report lacked any testimony from Jose Sanchez, whose account said that there were three seconds in between shots. The time between shots is important because a longer gap could indicates that 'sympathetic fire' occurred. Sympathetic fire is when an officer shoots only because another officer has fired. Seaman was told given certain facts to assume - which are basically the officers' account of what happened. The conclusion was that officers were justified. But after Pointer asked Seaman to assume that the neighbor Thomas’ testimony was correct, Seaman was forced to admit that, under those conditions, the shooting would not have been justified.

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