Centre Daily Times
By Pete Bosak – email@example.com
Woman accused of assaulting guards at jail
BELLEFONTE — The trial resumes this morning for a Howard woman accused of assaulting three guards at the Centre County jail and fighting officers to the point a Taser had to be used four times to subdue her.
But Melissa Jean Orrico, 23, claims she was lashing out in self-defense as corrections officers exceeded an acceptable level of force in subduing the 100-pound woman in May 2006.
“We submit that you will be able to determine that the force of these officers, some of them, not all of them, was excessive,” said Orrico’s attorney, Bruce Manchester, during opening arguments to a jury.
“She was set upon by these people. When an officer exceeds their authority by using excessive force, they become the aggressors.”
Manchester told the jury that Orrico — who already had been subdued and handcuffed — was shocked four times with a Taser, carrying about 50,000 volts of electricity, after guards freed the woman to search her and get her into prison garb.
Orrico, taking the stand in her own defense Monday afternoon, said that during the night in question, she was on prescribed medication for depression and anxiety and OxyContin, a powerful narcotic painkiller that was not prescribed.
As a result of those medications, she said, she could “barely walk, barely talk straight and wasn’t thinking.”
At the jail, Orrico testified that the corrections officers were the aggressors and that a Taser was used on her without warning while she was handcuffed and shackled.
Orrico was jailed that night after state police at Rockview arrested her during an investigation into a burglary at a bait shop in Howard. When she and a boyfriend were located, she became enraged at state police and was arrested, a trooper testified.
It took four troopers to get the woman into a police car, the trooper testified.
Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira told the jury the corrections officers had no choice but to escalate force in response to Orrico’s violent behavior.
“The defendant proceeded to be combative with those officers,” Madeira said. “She would pull clumps of hair from one officer. She would kick a second officer. She would bite another officer, breaking the skin through the shirt of that third officer.”
Trial resumes this morning before Centre County Judge David E. Grine, as Madeira begins his cross-examination of Orrico.
Pete Bosak can be reached at 235-3928. Centre Daily Times staff writer Sara Ganim contributed to this report.