Day 2: Nix takes stand on second day of trial

Published 7:27 pm Thursday, May 28, 2015

The second day of testimony in the trial of three Decatur County Sheriff’s deputies and a former Grady County Sheriff’s deputy saw only two witnesses take the stand, both called by the government.

Decatur County Sheriff’s Office deputy Christopher Kines, captain Liz Croley, former deputy Wade Umbach, and former Grady County Sheriff’s Office deputy Wiley Griffin, IV, are alleged to have used excessive force on Aaron Parrish and staging a subsequent cover-up at an incident at Bainbridge Bikefest in 2012.

Government prosecutor Risa Berkower called Jeanna West, Parrish’s mother, to the stand first. Berkower asked West to describe her recollection of what occurred on the night of the incident.

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West told the jury, consisting of eight men and four women, that she saw two men, unbeknownst to her at the time to be deputies Kines and Umbach, jump on Parrish and bring him to the ground. West stated this occurred after Parrish responded to a call for help because another deputy had attempted to take Mark West, her husband, into custody.

After seeing Parrish on the ground, West said she ran to get help. Upon returning, she saw the injuries Parrish sustained during the struggle where Griffin, IV allegedly hit him in the face with a flashlight. She then called Parrish’s wife, Carla Parrish, to come to the Bikefest grounds to pick him up and take him to the hospital.

Parrish was not arrested the night of the incident and West said she did not see him strike or punch anyone.

Former Decatur County Sheriff’s Office chief investigator and current Bainbridge Public Safety investigator Chip Nix took the witness stand next.

On examination by Berkower, Nix explained that Sheriff’s office personnel typically helped with security, along with private security officers, at Bikefest.

On the night in question, Nix said he was stationed with DCSO investigator Julian Crowder in a golf cart when Griffin, IV approached, shook the golf cart and said “Chip Nix ain’t s—, the Grady County SO is the A team and we’re going to f— somebody up tonight.”

When Nix received the call via radio to respond to an altercation, he arrived to see Kines and Umbach on the ground with Parrish. Nix said he readied his Taser in the event that he needed to help subdue Parrish, who had his hands out in front of him and was on his knees or his toes.

He then described how Griffin, IV arrived and grabbed Parrish by either the head or hair and proceeded to strike Parrish “at least five times” in the forehead and eye area.

Nix said he heard someone say, “Stop trying to get my gun, boy,” and visibly checked to make sure all the deputies’ guns were still present. Nix said he felt that none of the deputies were in jeopardy of having their gun removed by Parrish.

After Parrish was handcuffed and picked up off the ground, Nix saw the extent of Parrish’s injuries and returned to the command center to call EMS.

Nix described a meeting in Croley’s office a few days after the incident with DCSO Chief Deputy Wendell Cofer. Croley was completing the incident report and, according to Nix’s testimony, Cofer said, “We need to decide now, is he in the report or out?” referring to Griffin, IV.

Nix state Griffin, IV’s father, current Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin, III, then walked into the office and said, “I would prefer him to be out.”

When Nix told Croley that he didn’t feel the treatment of Parrish was right, Croley responded, according to Nix, “Y’all dumped this on me.”

Under direct examination by Berkower, Nix also said that he and Croley were in a personal, physical relationship from 2007-2011.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Kermit Dorough, Nix admitted he didn’t see and wasn’t aware of what events led to the altercation with Parrish and arrived on the scene after Parrish was already on the ground.

Another defense attorney, Tina Hunt, asked Nix why he didn’t report the incident if he felt that Parrish’s civil rights had been violated.

“You didn’t call the U.S. Attorney, you didn’t call the FBI, you didn’t call the GBI, you didn’t call the DA Joe Mulholland. Why didn’t you report this?” Hunt asked Nix.

Nix replied that was fearful of losing his job at the sheriff’s office if he spoke out.

Hunt also asked Nix about a series of text messages exchanged between Nix and Decatur County Clerk of Superior Court Cecilia Willis during Parrish’s criminal trial in Decatur County Superior Court.

Hunt indicated that with those and other text messages along with the testimony of a future witness, she planned to impeach Nix’s credibility as a witness.

The trial resumes Friday morning at 8 a.m. with Nix returning to the witness stand for more direct and cross-examination.

Senior U.S. District Judge Louis Sands is presiding over the trial.

Day 1 opening statements were presented and Day 3 the jury heard from Aaron Parrish.