By John Dickerson
Juan Mendoza Farias appeared to be in good health -- or at least his face was -- in a booking photo taken four days before his bruised body arrived at the county morgue.
Farais, 40, a legal U.S. resident with a valid social security number, died after a violent altercation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio's guards in the Maricopa County Jail. New Times recently wrote about his death, noting that the Sheriff's Office refuses to hand over video footage that could show exactly how much force the guards used.
Since then, the MCSO mailed this booking photo to New Times, as well as a legal statement, asserting that the MCSO will continue to withhold the video. The mugshot shows Farias' face when he was arrested December 2, 2007 on a warrant for violating his probation following a DUI. Around midnight on December 4, 2007, Farias stopped breathing and began bleeding from his nose and mouth while 11 guards reportedly restrained him. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The following photos were taken on December 7, 2007.
Before: December 2, 2007
After: December 7, 2007
Click on "more" to see additional photos (Graphic).
Farias' body was beaten and bruised, according to photos and an autopsy report produced by the county Medical Examiner's Office. Welts from "pepper-ball" shots (normally used for crowd control) and from electronic Taser devices are evident on the body.
Since July 25, 2007, the MCSO has refused to produce any records about Farias' death -- with the exception now of this lone booking photo (which the MCSO charged New Times $10.50 to produce).
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In its most recent correspondence, the MCSO's legal liaison claims that releasing the video footage of Farais' final moments would compromise its own investigation of the death.
"Investigations can be compromised by the disclosure of certain documents or recordings. For example, if a witness were to view a videotape of the incident or have information relayed...by someone who viewed the videotape, it is possible that the witness' memory what occurred will be altered to conform to what they believe they are seeing or what they have been told," Legal Liaison Pam Woody wrote.
As reported in the September 11 story about Farias, two of the guards' written accounts describing Farias' death match word-for-word. Two additional accounts shared duplicate sentences.