05/29/09 — Cherry workers found guilty

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Cherry workers found guilty

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 29, 2009 1:46 PM

A Wayne County Superior Court jury returned a guilty verdict this morning against two former Cherry Hospital workers charged with assaulting a patient.

Sentencing was expected to take place at 11 a.m. on the charges of assault on a handicapped person against Taniko Dominique Upton, 33, and William Kenneth "Kenny" Johnson, 52.

The jury deliberated for a little more than two hours Thursday evening and this morning, returning a verdict about 10 a.m. today.

Upton and Johnson had asked for a trial by jury after being found guilty in November in Wayne County District Court. The two men pleaded not guilty in both District Court and Superior Court trials.

On Thursday afternoon, lawyers for the two men said no witnesses would be called by the defense. Neither defendant testified.

Attorneys John Agner and Will Bland, representing the defendants, told the jury that they should infer nothing from either man's decision not to testify.

The two defendants were accused of punching and kicking a disabled Cherry patient, Nelson Glover, after he challenged a female patient to a fight. The disagreement arose after the woman asked Glover for a cigarette and he refused, according to the testimony of several witnesses.

On Thursday, the defense lawyers attempted to discredit the testimony of witnesses to the altercation, saying their stories were substantially different from one another.

Both Whitney Hodgin and Crystal Jones, two former Cherry nurses who were present at the scene of the alleged incident, testified that they saw Upton and Johnson kick and punch Glover, at one point causing him to fall to the ground. The other patients had already left the scene but Miss Hodgin and Miss Jones testified that Upton did not allow Glover to leave and egged him on to fight.

Miss Hodgin and Miss Jones were nurses at the hospital, hired through a staffing agency.

Video cameras installed in the building where the assault took place did not cover an area in a breezeway where patients and workers go on smoke breaks. A video played in court did not show the assault but it did show the nurses taking a seat following the incident that happened on Aug. 18, 2008. One of the nurses said she was in shock from witnessing the attack and feared for her own safety.

Miss Hodgin testified that Upton was the first to touch Glover. Miss Jones testified that Johnson held Glover to allow Upton to hit him, but she also said that her view was partially blocked by the people involved.

Both health care workers no longer work at the hospital. Neither reported the incident immediately but Miss Hodgin testified that she called her staffing agency to report the incident when she returned home from work that evening.