It all started at a trimming session during harvest season in Laytonville. It was hot, the pot sticky, the vibe hostile bordering on angry. It was time for a break, a cold beer, some fresh air.
But Jimmy Dykes just kept bringing in more and more weed to be trimmed, cracking the proverbial whip, urging the trim crew on. Finally, Ken Mitchell, having had enough of non-stop trimming, picked up a great big beautiful cola (bud) and threw it at Dykes. Dykes responded with a punch, and bad blood flowed.
(Purists and other pot pros don't like the term “bud.” They prefer “cola.” Colas are buds with the stems still attached. Experienced buyers want the individual flowers taken off the stem and more scrupulously manicured, which trimming machines like the TrimPro cannot do.)
Over the winter, an alleged debt went unpaid, resentments grew even more bitter, and on May 21st of last year Mitchell and Dykes went toe-to-toe in the parking lot of Laytonville’s Long Valley Lumber.
Somebody had run in to the store and said, “There’s two guys out there trying to kill each other!” Deputy Jason Cox was soon on-scene. He found one combatant beaten and bloodied, the other with blood streaming from a head wound. Bloody Head, who turned out to be Dykes, had retreated a short distance from the combat zone but wasn’t hard to find — in fact, he made no effort to hide, since he considered himself the victim.
Dykes is a wiry, average size dude, Mitchell a fire plug body type.
Deputy Cox had to decide who he thought was the true victim, so he picked one, the one with the most obvious physical damage, Kenneth Mitchell, and arrested the other, Jimmy Dykes. The DA could sort out who'd done what to whom.
The DA agreed that Mitchell was the victim and filed assault and battery charges against Dykes. At the preliminary hearing before Judge Ann Moorman, Mitchell had described how Dykes had confronted him in the lumber store's parking lot, knocked him down and had proceeded to bang his head on the ground, rounding out the assault by choking Mitchell until he nearly lost consciousness.
But at the trial last week, Mitchell apparently forgot what he’d said at the prelim, and told the jury that Dykes had walked up and knocked him cold with a single punch, and that he had no recollection of what happened afterwards.
There were no witnesses, no video surveillance tapes, just Mitchell’s word against Dykes'.
Dykes said it was Ken Mitchell who'd clocked him on the noggin with what he thought was a metal pipe, and that he was fighting for his life against a bigger guy, Ken Mitchell. Dykes had cleaned himself up a bit before Deputy Cox had arrived, whereas Mitchell was a bloody mess, and had had to be transported to the hospital. The pictures Deputy Cox took of Mitchell were more gruesome than the ones he took of Dykes. Based on photos, Dykes had done quite a job on his old pal.
The prosecutor, Deputy DA Scott McMenomey, used these bloody photos of Mitchell to substantiate his case against Dykes. But the jury was not entirely convinced. They returned a verdict of misdemeanor assault, rather than the hoped-for felony charge of assault and battery resulting in great bodily injury. If they'd brought back a felony against Dykes, Dykes would have been packed off to the state pen.
Defense Attorney Carly Dolan of the Office of the Public Defender asked Deputy Cox why he’d arrested her client, Dykes, instead of Mitchell.
Cox said, “I surmised that Mr. Dykes caused the greater injury.”
Dolan: “When you contacted Mr. Dykes, did he make any attempt to run?”
Cox: “No, he was very cooperative.”
Dolan: “Was there any blood on him?”
Cox: “Yes, there was some blood on him.”
Dolan: “Did you ask where he went after the fight?”
Cox: “No, I did not.”
Dolan: “Did you ask whether he’d cleaned himself up?”
Cox: “I did not ask.”
Dolan: “Did he tell you he’d been hit over the head with a pipe?”
Cox: “Yes, he did.”
Dolan: “Did he say he’d been hit numerous times?”
Cox: “I don’t know if it was numerous times, but yes, he said he’d been hit.”
Dolan: “And did Josh Firks say it was with lag bolts, that Mitchell had hit Dykes with?”
Cox: “Correct. Mr. Firks brought that up. I believe he said lag bolts were laying in the parking lot next to where the fight took place.”
Dolan: “But Dykes just said it was something metal he’d been hit with?”
Dolan: “And he showed you the trauma to his head, and you photographed it?”
Cox: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Ms. Dolan put up a photo of Dykes’ head. He had an impressive gash to the front of his skull and his hair was matted with dried blood. Cox added that Dykes also had abrasions to his knees, bite marks on his arm, and that Mitchell had apparently been trying to gouge out Dykes' eye.
These two boys had been seriously going for it.
Dolan: “Did Mr. Dykes tell you he put Mr. Mitchell in a submission hold?”
Cox: “Yes. He said he thought he was fighting for his life.”
Dolan: “Did Mr. Dykes say he could feel blood running down his neck from the head wound?”
Cox: “I don’t recall that, but he may have.”
Dolan: “There is a big size difference between Mr. Dykes and Mr. Mitchell, isn’t there?”
Cox: “There is, yes.”
Mitchell is bigger than Dykes, but Dykes can fight, as he seems to have established beyond all doubt that day in the Laytonville parking lot.
Dolan: “And Mr. Dykes wanted Mr. Mitchell arrested, didn’t he?”
Cox: “Yes, and I said I’d submit that to the DA.”
McMenomey for the prosecution contended that Dykes had hit his head on a trailer hitch attached to Mitchell’s vehicle, but there was no evidence that he had.
Dolan: “Is there any mention of a trailer hitch in your report?”
Cox: “No, none.”
Dolan: “Did Mr. Mitchell ever mention a trailer hitch?”
Cox: “No. One employee said something about it, but it was so vague I didn’t put it in my report.”
Outside the presence of the jury McMenomey tried to show that Dykes was guilty of “moral turpitude” by reciting Dykes' rap sheet, but Judge Moorman didn’t think so, and these gratuitous aspersions against Dykes were denied.
Then Kenneth Mitchell took the stand and put prosecutor McMenomey in a tight spot by saying he came out of the store and Jimmy Dykes had walked up and knocked him cold.
Mitchell's statements to Deputy Cox, and later at the prelim, about having his head slammed on the ground, about being choked to nearly losing consciousness — this was all out the window. Now, Mitchell's testimony was that he was unconscious through it all, that Dykes had simply walked up and commenced an attempt at a bare-hand kill.
Mitchell remembered that he’d gone to Long Valley Lumber to get gate hinges (the big L-shaped lag-bolt kind) and that he didn’t have enough money to pay for them — yet he had them in his hand, in a sack, he said (at the prelim there was no sack), and was going to see if there was any money in his car to pay for the hinges. Dykes had pulled up with his cousin Josh Firks. Firks went in the store, and Jimmy Dykes came over asking for the money he said that Mitchell owed him.
McMenomey: “Did you owe him money?”
Mitchell: “No. Then he hit me and I don’t remember anything else.”
McMenomey: “Had you had a prior incident with Mr. Dykes?”
Mitchell: “Yes, when we were trimming weed. He kept bringing the product in and I told him it was too hot, the product was too sticky. But he kept bringing it in so I threw some product at him and said, ‘See for yourself’.”
McMenomey: “What did Dykes do?”
Mitchell: “He crossed the room and punched me.”
Dolan: “So you admit there was bad blood between you and Mr. Dykes before the incident at Long Valley Lumber?”
Mitchell: “Yes, we’d been partners before that.”
Dolan: “And he’d done some concrete work for you, hadn’t he?”
Mitchell: “Yes, at my house.”
Dolan: “Did you ever pay him?”
Mitchell: “No — we were partners.”
Dolan: “Did he leave tools at your house?”
Dolan: “And you still have these tools?”
Dolan: “Fair to say you don’t like him anymore?”
Mitchell confirmed that love had indeed fled the Mitchell-Dykes relationship.
Dolan: “So this all started when you were trimming marijuana the year before?”
Mitchell: “Yes. He kept bringing the product in, too much product, it was too hot and too sticky.”
Dolan: “So you were getting upset, and tossed a bud at him?”
Mitchell: “Yeah, I threw it at him and said, ‘This is what I’m talking about, dude, check it out!'”
Dolan: “And where were you?”
Mitchell: “I was working at the new trimming machine, the TrimPro.”
Dolan: “You say he punched you — how many times?”
Mitchell: “I dunno. Maybe three or four.”
Dolan: “But did you grab him and choke him first?”
Dolan: “So you deny assaulting him first?”
Mitchell: “Wull, yeah. I mean, I just sorta put my arm around his neck.”
Dolan: “You put him in a choke hold?”
Mitchell: “No. I put my arm around his neck and he started doing upper-cuts to my jaw.”
Dolan: “How did it end?”
Mitchell: “I let go of him and told him to leave.”
At this juncture, we may suppose the partnership began to dissolve.
Dolan: “How do you know Josh Firks?”
Mitchell: “He was my boss for 10 years.”
Ms. Dolan showed Mitchell the gate hinges, the lag bolts, which he recognized.
Dolan: “And you were carrying these when Mr. Dykes approached you?”
Mitchell: “Yeah. They were in a bag.”
Dolan: “Now, at the prelim in this case on April 13th, do you recall my asking you if they were in a bag?”
Ms. Dolan refreshed the witness’s memory from the transcript of the prelim, wherein there was no mention of the bolt bag. Dolan grilled Mitchell on other inconsistencies in his testimony, while McMenomey wagged his head dismissively at Ms. Dolan's systematic deconstruction of his client's inconsistencies.
Dolan: “So when you came to, Mr. Dykes was on top of you?”
Mitchell: “No, he was under me.”
Dolan: “How much were your hospital bills?”
Mitchell: “So far, over $7,000, but they’re still coming in.”
Dolan: “But you’ve submitted a request to have Mr. Dykes pay these bills, haven’t you?”
Mitchell: “Yes, I was told to submit all my bills.”
Dolan: “Did you have these lag bolts in your hand when he hit you?”
Dolan: “You are adamant today that you never hit him, but didn’t you gouge his eye?”
Mitchell: “I did whatever I could to get him off me.”
Dolan: “And these lag bolts were left on the ground?”
Dolan: “Do you recall testifying at the prelim that you picked them up and put them in your car?”
Mitchell: “I didn’t, though.”
Dolan: “So you were lying at the prelim?”
McMenomey: “Are you testifying today just so you can get your hospital bill paid — a measly $7,000?”
(Seems that 7 grand is chump change to McMenomey.)
Mitchell: “Of course not.”
McMenomey then had Mitchell stand up and tell the jurors his height (5’10”) and weight (275 pounds). The prosecutor then tried to demonstrate that Mitchell couldn’t have hit Dykes over the head with the lag bolts because he was shorter than Dykes. But even the half-hearted miming of the confrontation showed that the portly Mitchell could easily have hit Dykes with the gate bolts.
McMenomey: “Is it fair to say you were dazed and confused when you spoke to the deputy?”
Dolan: “Were you dazed and confused at the prelim, too?”
Mitchell: “I, uh… I don’t remember.”
The jury didn’t appear dazed or confused. They came back with not guilty verdicts on the felony assault. Dykes' twelve tried and true peers delivered a guilty verdict on the lesser charge, misdemeanor assault, primarily due to the damage Jimmy Dykes, undefeated Laytonville welterweight, did to his outback heavyweight challenger, Ken Mitchell.