Our NY civil rights attorney Christopher J. Donadio recently lectured at the American Association for Justice Winter Convention in Austin, Texas. He was asked to speak at the convention to educate plaintiff’s lawyers from around the country on how to litigate cases where police officers have unlawfully used Tasers to injure innocent people.
As of 2016, over 97.5% of police departments in the United States employ officers that carry Tasers, devices that can incapacitate a person with electricity. Although Tasers can be useful in reducing the need for deadly force, unfortunately, many officers have used them inappropriately and severely harmed and/or killed innocent people. As a result, there has been a rise in lawsuits involving the excessive use of Tasers. Despite the seemingly straight forward nature of cases involving excessive force by the use of a Taser, there are complicated legal issues, including the Qualified Immunity Defense, that can prevent those injured from obtaining justice.
Unfortunately many innocent victims have been denied justice because their attorneys did not have the knowledge to negotiate the various complex legal issues. As a result of Mr. Donadio’s success in litigating Taser cases, he was asked to educate lawyers from all over the country as to what must be done to insure that their clients are not denied justice.
In Newmaker v. City of Fortuna, et. al.,Docket #14-15098, The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed The District Court’s granting of summary judgment for the defendants in this action predicated on 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs claimed that Maxwell Soeth, a City of Fortuna police officer, used excessive force during an attempted arrest when he fatally shot Jacob Newmaker. Soeth claimed that he shot Newmaker because he grabbed Soeth’s baton. Soeth testified that Newmaker was standing and swinging the baton at the head of his fellow officer at which time he shot him. He further testified that Newmaker after being shot fell to the ground and that Newmaker was getting back up swinging the baton at which time he shot him again. The Court concluded that both the autopsy and a dashboard camera contradicted his testimony and raised an issue of credibility and that summary judgment should not be granted in Section 1983 actions which turn on an officer’s credibility which is genuinely in doubt. The Court pointed out that the autopsy findings “…can be explained only by Newmaker having been turned away from Soeth, bending over, and low to the ground in both shots…” This, the Court stated clearly contradicted Soeth’s testimony that Newmaker was standing up swinging the baton when he was first shot or attempting to stand up while still swinging the baton when he was shot again. The video, the Court stated also contradicted Soeth’s testimony. Although of poor quality, it appeared to show that Newmaker who had been tasered multiple times had already fallen to the street when he was shot. The Court thus held that officer Soeth was not entitled to Qualified immunity as there were material issues of fact including both officers credibility which were for a jury to decide. Read Full Opinion here.
Alton Sterling and Philando Castille are the two most recent victims of an epidemic of police brutality and discrimination against African Americans all over this country. These two men died this week in two separate incidents during which both of them were literally executed by the police.
On Tuesday a gruesome video circulated among social media and news channels showing two policemen from Baton Rouge, Louisiana murdering Alton Sterling while they were holding him down on the ground. The video shows that he was not resisting.
A day later, Philando Castille was in his car with his wife and daughter in Falcon Heighth, Minesota, when he got stopped by the police for a a defective tail light. As he was reaching to his back pocket get his I.D in his wallet the cop shot him for no reason. His wife streamed a video live on Facebook as he was dying in front of her.
Our partner Anthony Gair who represented the mother of Amadou Diallo, who was shot at 41 times by NYPD officers was quoted in an article from the New York Times related to the $ 5.9 million settlement received by the family of Eric Garner from the City of New York.
The case of Mr. Garner’s death differed from other killings by the police because of video capturing his final pleas for breath and because of the number of children who could claim damages. Five are named in the release forms. “I was dealing with someone who left no dependents and there was no conscious pain and suffering because he died instantly,” said Anthony H. Gair, the lawyer for the family of Amadou Diallo, killed in hail of police bullets in 1999. The city made no significant offer “until the very, very end,” he said, ultimately settling the case for $3 million. This amount is the largest amount that has ever been paid by the city of New York in a wrongful-death action for the death of a single individual with no dependents.
Police brutality is at the origin of the death of Freddie Gray and the 6 police officers involved in the arrest of the 25 year old black man and recklessly drove him unbuckled in a police wagon until he suffered a severe and critical neck injury will face criminal charges. ” The most serious charges were brought against Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who was driving the van that carried Mr. Gray to a police station after his April 12 arrest. Along with involuntary manslaughter, Officer Goodson, 45, was charged with “second-degree depraved heart murder,” which means indifference to human life.” Read more in New York Times. This morning in a press conference, Baltimore State Attorney Marylin Mosby said that after her team investigated the death of Freedie Gray, they came to the conclusion that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide and that they have probable cause to file criminal charges. See video below
A troubling report examining 10 cases of police misconduct in New York during which cops used the prohibited chokehold move shows that in 4 of the cases police officers used chokeholds as a “first act” instead of verbal communication against citizens who had only confronted the cops verbally and not physically. The report was issued today by Philip Eure, the city’s first inspector general for the NYPD. The report is following the death of New York citizen Eric Garner who died this summer in Staten Island after a police officer put him in a choke hold. Last December the policeman who killed Garner was not indicted stirring public outrage and rallies against police brutality.
Police brutality and racial profiling continue to happen in New York City because cops can get away with it. Since 1999 when Amadou Diallo died after being shot at 41 times and hit 19 by the police, 179 additional people have been killed by on duty New York Police Officers but only 3 of them have been indicted and 1 of them was convicted but he never went to jail according to an investigation conducted by the NY Daily News. 27% of the victims were unarmed, 86% were black or Hispanic.
Most of the time police officers get away with their crime because the prosecutors and the police need each other to do their job. Advocacy groups have been asking the creation of a special prosecutor to handle such cases.
Our firm represented the mother of Amadou Diallo, in the video below, New York Police Brutality Lawyer Anthony Gair discusses police misconduct, stop and frisk and racial profiling in an interview with Court TV.
A 12 year old boy who was killed by a Cleveland Police Officer is the last victim of a long history of police brutality in the city of Cleveland. A year and half ago the feds launched an investigation of the Cleveland Police Department after several high profile use of force incidents and numerous public demands for a federal investigation by civic leaders and local politicians. The Justice Department released their report Thursday afternoon. The report found that officers used on a regular basis unjustifiable force not only against criminals but also against innocent victims of crime. Among the allegations, the feds report that Cleveland officers in recent years punched a handcuffed 13 year old boy who was shoplifting. They also shot an unarmed kidnapping victim who was only wearing his underwear.
Read more in the Huffington Post.
Two New York police officers have been charged for assault and police misconduct after they were caught on tape beating Kahreem Tribble, a 16 year old teenager with their fists and a gun (see video below). David Afanador and Tyrane Isaac were caught on a video chasing and catching the teenager on a Crown Heights street. After the boy surrendered, one of the cops is seen throwing a punch at the boy’s face before his colleague joined in, whipping his head with a drawn pistol.
Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said the video was troubling and “if any police officer has crossed the line – we have to hold him accountable”.
Afanador was charged with felony assault and misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of a weapon and official misconduct. He faces up to seven years in prison.