Villegas emotional during testimony on day two of trial

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 10:26pm

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday morning in a trial to determine damages for the woman whose rights were violated when she was shackled before and after childbirth.

Emotions drew Juana Villegas to tears at times on the witness stand Wednesday, as she recalled being restrained during labor and immediately after giving birth to her son three years ago.

The testimony came during questioning on the second day of a trial in federal court to determine how much money, if any in damages a jury of four women and three men might award her. 

This week’s trial follows the previous ruling of U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. in April, in which he found that Davidson County Sheriff’s Office deputies violated Villegas’ civil rights by keeping her shackled for much of the time leading up to and then after her childbirth, and also for refusing to allow her the use of a breast pump upon her release from the hospital.

On July 3, 2008, a Berry Hill police officer arrested Villegas, then an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was nine months pregnant at the time, after she failed to produce a driver’s license during a traffic stop. She was later held in jail over the July 4 weekend on a 287(g) immigration hold, only to go into labor late in the evening on July 5.

Villegas first came to tears Wednesday when asked on the witness stand to describe her experience while shackled to a gurney in the back of ambulance headed to Nashville General Hospital two days after her arrest. She said she feared for the safety of her child while in the back of the ambulance and worried that with her legs shackled she wouldn’t be able to give birth if her child came during the ride.

As for any pain or discomfort caused by the leg shackles, “I wasn’t worried about that,” Villegas answered through a court interpreter. “The thing I was worried about was my child.”

Sheriff’s deputies released the shackles during the delivery but later replaced them. Villegas testified that when she was shackled following the delivery, her movement with her child was very restricted. She said she tried not to move much because the clink of the leg chains would disturb her sleeping son.

Villegas later testified that upon her return to jail, sheriff’s office employees informed a nurse that Villegas would not be allowed to take a breast pump with her back to jail, something she said led to her breasts “hurting very bad.”

Of the entire experience, Villegas said, “I always have it in my mind.” She added she would use money a jury might award to seek treatment for the memories she still has. A psychiatrist has diagnosed Villegas with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. In court Tuesday, the psychiatrist — Dr. Jill DeBona — testified that she believes Villegas will require long-term psychiatric treatment. 

While some of the questioning Wednesday drew tears from Villegas, parts of Metro’s cross-examination solicited a different response from Haynes. The judge had already ruled on the sheriff’s office's liability in the case, and instructed both sides that issues pertaining to that or to Villegas’ immigration status were not to be brought up before the jury. Villegas' immigration status has been in a sort of official hold while the case has proceeded. 

Metro attorney Kevin Klein asked Villegas whether she failed to report to doctors back and leg pain as well as mental anguish she claims resulted from her shackling.

But it seemed to be Klein’s questioning about false information Villegas might have provided on job applications and multiple questions about her knowledge of or fear that she would be separated from her family that frustrated Haynes, who said he was “mystified” and “astounded” by the attorney's repeated brushes with information the judge had already said was not to be discussed.

After the jury was released for the day, Haynes addressed Klein, saying, “you left a clear impression with the jury that there is something else” involved that they won’t get to hear. Then Haynes walked out of the courtroom. 

Closing arguments begin Thursday at 9 a.m. 


17 Comments on this post:

By: lcl7337 on 8/17/11 at 10:35

Thank you Kevin Klein for going into court, doing your job and doing it well in front of a judge that is doing everything possible to stack the deck against you. The 6th Circuit said it best when describing haynes' bumbling legal ability in their 2010 opinion regarding Tenncare: "This situation combines serious management failures, fundamental misunderstandings that potentially prejudice defendants, and a developing adversarial relationship between the judge and the defendants..."

All of Nashville is holding their nose waiting for this episode to end and it doesn't help things when you have a judge like this presiding.

By: govskeptic on 8/18/11 at 4:00

I don't understand how this Judge, who appears to want to punish this City and
Country for the acts of slavery 150+ years ago, personally finds the defendants
(taxpayers) guilty, but then needs a Jury to decide the amount of damages? Did
Metro agree to a trial before the Judge without a Jury or did Judge Haynes take that
away as he's ruled against Metro in most of it's witness and other testimony
during this portion of the case? So so many ills of the country comes from these
Federal Courts as are created by Congress and the different administrations!

By: bfra on 8/18/11 at 6:47

She is responsible for everything that has happened. She snubbed her nose at every law this Country has and in the video was arrogant about it. She is a felon, thief, liar & definitely not a good mother or she wouldn't keep popping babies out without stability for them. With dollar signs in her head & well versed to show strong, "poor pitiful me" emotions, she is perfect fodder for her shyster lawyers. What is this judge's stake in all of this? He has to have one!

By: Nitzche on 8/18/11 at 7:11

I am sure mexico would give us the same consideration.........NOT

By: bfra on 8/18/11 at 7:14

Under the Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison. Immigrants who are deported and attempt to re-enter can be imprisoned for 10 years. Visa violators can be sentenced to six-year terms. Mexicans who help illegal immigrants are considered criminals.

By: mg357 on 8/18/11 at 8:23

mg357; I really don't think the jury is going to miss anything here. It is common knowledge that this woman has habitually broken our laws and violated a court order that excluded her from this country back in 1996. Taking into consideration the fact that she's been here 15 years, living illegally and most likely availing herself of any and all services she has fraudulently accepted under false pretenses; she should be charged as a habitual criminal. She still must face charges for direct contempt of a court order for deportation. This story has been so widespread that this bit of information won't go over the juror's heads. The jury may be compassionate because of her children who were born here....where is the father..her complete name is Juana Villegas De La Paz. Since illegal immigration is such a highly volatile issue for the majority of Americans, any judgement she might receive can be

By: bfra on 8/18/11 at 9:06

An appeal will enable her to continue to live here, scrounge off legal taxpayers, probably still drive with no ins. or dl and pop out some more babies.

By: mg357 on 8/18/11 at 10:10

mg357; you may be correct bf. She still has to answer the deportation order which is still active and enforceable. Our justice system is deplorable along with a government that seems to mollycoddle illegals and all to the detriment of our own

By: cityjvtao on 8/18/11 at 11:20

I would find it difficult to believe anyone who writes to condemn this woman and supports the actions of the state would call themselves a Christian - a follower of Christ. How can anyone defend this woman’s being shackled during labor? My God – where is your mercy? Yes, perhaps she broke the law, was here illegally, and maybe not even a very good person - but does that allow the government to humiliate and mistreat a prisoner?

Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me: By not doing good to the poor and needy, to the stranger and the prisoner, they showed that they had not his spirit, and were not like him, and were unfit for his kingdom.

By: bfra on 8/18/11 at 11:35

cityjvtao - Just how Chiristian do you think this woman is? Go read the 10 commandments for a start and name 1 she doesn't break everyday. I am not saying, although, by her own admission & actions, she is the scum bag of the earth, it gave them the right to abuse her. IMO, and by laws for her kind, she wasn't abused. Live by the laws of the land. Have you ever read that anywhere?

By: bfra on 8/18/11 at 11:39

Well she got $200K and hopefully by the time the lawyers get thru taking their BIG chunks, she won't have much left. Now deport her & her kids arses and the baby daddy or daddies too, if they can find them.

By: cityjvtao on 8/18/11 at 3:37

bfra - First you agree that the government had no right to abuse this woman, then you say she was not abused in your opinion or when judged by laws of her own kind. I suspect if this were your wife or sister you would feel differently and that this has more to do with your own hatred of others rather than any sort of rational or moral approach to law.

While you’re entitled to your own convoluted opinions no matter how uniformed or misguided, you are not entitled to your own facts. Mexican law is totally irrelevant in this case. Like it or not - the US Constitution protects this woman civil rights inside the United States as well as your own.

By: bfra on 8/18/11 at 4:05

Guess you didn't read the Bible or just like to make your own opinions. By law, as a liar, thief, felon, illegal & according to the video smart, loud mouth, she wasn't abused. No they didn't treat her with kid gloves and I would hope if there is a next time, they still don't coddle her.

By: stick4013 on 8/18/11 at 6:38

Richard Stickney
I am am American Submarine Veteran. I also have I have Multiple Sclerosis. It is a painful and way unpredictable disorder. Some days you function and some days you have to struggle to stand up much less walk - I live in the Sticks. The closest town is 14 miles away.

A while back I had a very bad day. About 1:30 AM my wife said lets take a ride through these hills, it will relax both of us.We drove through the hills and ridges for an hour or so. We ended up on the outskirts of Woodbury. I turned around and started back. About an eight of a mile later I saw blue lights behind me so I pulled over.

The officer said that I pulled out in front of him. I drive a F 350 Super Duty Diesel Truck. It has a full size rear window and five rear view mirrors. He was speeding and he was bored.

Every thing was going fine then five or six more cruisers pulled in and circled around my truck with their lights on bright. I was amazed that this little town had so many police. Although he testified that there was no odor of alcohol, my speech was not slurred and my gaze was steady, right in his eyes, he had me exit my truck to take a field sobriety test.

Although the officers were clearly informed by myself and my wife that I have Multiple Sclerosis, their only reaction to that was to say “I'm not Buying that”!

People that have MS (and can still walk) appear to be under the influence when they move and when they are trying to walk. Especially so when stressed and denied the use of any prescribed medical devices to aid in walking.

When I am having a bad day I have to hold on to something when I am standing. I swagger back and forth. I am not physically able to put one foot straight in front of the other or stand on one leg due to a recalled hip replacement. I walk funny because of MS and my hip. My family and fiends call me “The Choo-Choo Man” because without my cane and braces on a bad day, I shuffle. I can't stand for long without my cane much less walk and they refused to let me us them. My hands shake, my legs are very painful and weak. Also they shake if I do not have any support. Needless to say I failed the field sobriety test. I could not pass that test on a good day in the middle of a football field on a sunny day so they cuffed me and charged me with DUI and took me to jail.

I am thinking here; It takes six or seven cruisers to arrest one man who cant even walk?

After they took me into custody all of the cruisers plus a sheriffs car that had arrived stayed at the site with my truck and my wife. My wife is much younger than I am. She is attractive and well endowed.

Those five or six officers stayed and harassed and degraded the hell out of her, on the street for nearly two hours in all. She was terrified by those who are sworn to protect. Apparently being a female in Woodbury makes you fair game and sport for the police.

They were taking great pleasure in taunting her and told her they were going to leave her there on the street and they were laughing about it.

They had no right to make my wife their entertainment for the night. That is sick behavior and somewhat predatory. Are these people above the law? Can they do anything they please when they are on duty? This is not how an American should feel, especially a woman?

The bottom line is this I have a clean record – Zero Priors. They arrested me for having Multiple Sclerosis - Something that they don't know anything about nor did they even take the short time it would have taken to ask.

When I was locked up they held my box of medications up in front of the opening in the door and shook them so you could hear the contents. Then they told me in a mocking fashion that “We have your medications but you can't have them”. That is equivalent to putting a gun to my head. Fortunately my wife contacted a Bail Bondsman and got me out after 6 hours or so.

Truth of the matter is that they saw an older man in a very nice diesel truck with a much younger woman and assumed that my wife was some kind of pick-up or a prostitute and that is the way they treated her. They formed their subjective opinion early on with no regard for us as human beings. It was getting close to shift change time and they had a little bit of time to kill. I don't think it takes six or seven cruisers from the Police Dept. and the Sheriffs Dept. all at the same location, in the middle of town to administer a sobriety test to a crippled man. To me that is not Law Enforcement that is Voyeurism.

Sorry that this is so long. This is as brief as I could make it. Thanks. –Richard Stickney

By: skeptic1 on 8/19/11 at 11:11

Mr. Stickney:

Sorry that you have MS, but you probably shouldn't be driving if you can't stand up or walk a straight line. Especially in the darkest part of the night. If I had come across you and your wife ( and I am NOT a police officer), my first thought would have been that she was being kidnapped. My advice is to get a letter from your doctor that says it is okay for you to drive in your condition and keep it with you at all times.

By: skeptic1 on 8/19/11 at 11:23

I totally agree with the comment by bfra. This woman and her lawyer are perpetrating a scam here. It is a pity that the jury thought she deserved a single dime.

I sat on a jury once on a civil case. During deliberations, one of the jurors said, "I don't think he/she deserves it, but we have to give him/her something."

(Where do people get that notion?)

I replied, "No. We don't HAVE to give that person anything. The law doesn't say that anywhere."

Life is stressful every day. Everyone has bad days and good days. No law requires us to ensure that everyone has a good day. People who break the law put THEMSELVES at risk for having a bad day. Criminals sometimes get shackled. So what!

By: skeptic1 on 8/19/11 at 11:29

Sorry. I should have said IT SOUNDS LIKE this woman and her lawyer are perpetrating a scam here. I have no proof whatsoever that this case, which seems to have no merit or depict any really cruel treatment, was exaggerated out of proportion to the actual circumstances.