Former Cherry worker acquitted
By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 12, 2010 1:46 PM
A jury found a former Cherry Hospital worker not guilty of a felony-level patient abuse and neglect charge on Thursday morning.
James "Allan" Smith, 34, of U.S. 13, had been accused of playing a role in the beating of Dean Smith, a Type I bipolar patient who suffered a broken nose and ribs and severe facial bruising in an Oct. 3, 2006, assault at the state psychiatric hospital just outside Goldsboro.
A jury found Smith not guilty, clearing him of any wrongdoing or chance of further criminal action for the incident.
Smith said his lawyer, Tom Sallenger of Wilson, gave him permission to disclose what his next actions would be.
"I am looking into getting my job back, back pay, and damages for pain and suffering for what I went through," Smith said in a telephone interview after the verdict.
After the verdict came back, Smith said he felt vindicated by the result.
"I've been living through hell," Smith said. "I reckon, you know, what I'm upset with is the state, because I was doggone cooperative all through the matter."
Dean and another man, Eric Jerrod Isler, who is scheduled to go on trial later this month in relation to the same incident, had both been accused by state investigators of beating Smith.
The patient testified that his illness was pronounced on the morning of the incident, and that as a result, he got into a number of disagreements with both other patients and members of the Cherry staff.
One incident was with a hospital technician.
Smith got involved in an altercation with another patient, an ex-Marine who had been admitted to Cherry.
The man was involved in an emotional phone call, and Dean Smith interrupted, he testified. That led to the entry of the defendant and Isler approaching the patient, who at some point kicked defendant James "Allan" Smith in the groin.
After that, James Smith testified he tackled Smith, and he and Isler carried him to a room to "calm him down."
Smith testified that it was the hospital technician that inflicted a beating on Dean Smith that left severe wounds including broken ribs, a broken nose and facial and bodily bruising.
Dean Smith testified that he was on the ground and that it felt like many people were kicking and punching him.
He also testified that he could not be sure who launched the kicks and punches.
On Wednesday morning, the jury decided that there was not enough evidence to convince them beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith had perpetrated or helped in the beating.
Smith said he was ready to get on with his life.
"I told the truth, and actually I just wanted to clear my name," he said. "I'm just a good family man, and I've got a tire business to run."