JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The trial began Tuesday for a former corrections officer accused of beating a woman who was shackled in the Duval County jail in 2018.
Catherine Thompson, now 24, was arrested on one count of misdemeanor battery and two counts of felony official misconduct and was immediately fired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, as she was still in her probationary period, after the incident in the summer of 2018.
Kirenda Welch, who told News4Jax that she was five weeks pregnant at the time, was arrested on a charge of driving without a valid license — which court records show has since been dismissed. Police said that Welch encountered Thompson while being searched at the jail, the two exchanged insults, and then Thompson beat Welch after she was placed in four-point restraints, meaning she was handcuffed and her legs were shackled, and her hands and legs were connected by a chain.
According to Duval County court records, a jury was selected Monday, and Thompson’s trial started Tuesday.
The prosecution said that Welch falsified details in an incident report in addition to attacking Welch.
“She initiated the contact. She’s the one who punched the victim in the face and kept on punching her,” said prosecutor Octavius Holliday Jr.
Thompson’s attorneys assured the jury that the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to convict their client.
“Ms. Thompson, as she sits here today, is not guilty,” said defense attorney Jessica Goldsborough.
Welch took the stand to testify. She admitted that she was angry about being arrested when she arrived at the jail and that she used foul language while being booked. She said she and Thompson had words for each other and those words turned to violence while her hands and feet were in cuffs.
“She punched my head into the wall — which caused me to fall back from the bench. After I fell back from the first punch, she just continued to punch me at least between 10 and 20 times, and she was about to choke me,” Welch said.
Welch said that afterward, she was pepper-sprayed in the face at close range in a holding cell with no cameras.
Thompson said she hit Welch because Welch bit her, but two correction officers and former co-workers of Thompson testified that it didn’t happen that way.
One of the corrections officers was asked: “You see Ms. Thompson turn around and strike Ms. Welch?” She responded: ‘Yes ma’am?”
The other corrections officer was asked: “Did you see Ms. Welch fight Ms. Thompson before Ms. Thompson punched her?” He replied: “I did not.”
Before the prosecution rested its case, it played a video of Thompson being interrogated by two JSO detectives, who kept telling Thompson that her written report about what happened was inconsistent with what they heard from eyewitnesses and Welch. After repeating her version of what happened, they told her a warrant was issued for her arrest. Then, in the video, she can be heard saying: “I guess I punched her in the face and I took her to the ground and I started beating the **** out of her. I guess that’s the truth.”
Thompson told the judge that she wants to testify in her own defense. The judge said the trial will continue Wednesday morning.
There is still an ongoing civil suit.