Posts Tagged ‘LAPD lawsuit’

The U.S. Supreme Court has put police stations all around the country on notice: if you withhold evidence you can be sued.  The court let stand a civil jury verdict against two LAPD detectives who concealed evidence that kept an innocent man in jail for more than 2 years awaiting trial.  The justices turned down an appeal from the LA city attorney who contended that because the man was freed before trial, the police officers could not be sued for hiding evidence.

Michael Walker, who is now deceased, was standing in a store in the Crenshaw neighborhood of LA in August of 2005 when a store clerk thought he looked like a middle-aged black man who had robbed the store a few days earlier. Police were called and Walker was arrested. He agreed to be interviewed and have his belongings searched.

No evidence was ever discovered linking him to the robbery, but detectives saw him as a prime suspect in not just one robbery, but more than a dozen in the area. Each time, the thief gave the clerk or cashier a handwritten note demanding money. Usually the note misspelled the word “start” as in “start shooting.”

Walker maintained his innocence. Two detectives, Steven Moody and Robert Pulido still believed they had the right man. They held Walker in jail pending investigation. To justify his detention and $1 million bail, they filed a report telling prosecutors that, “Since the arrest of Walker, the crime spree caused by the ‘Demand Note Robber’ has ceased.”

This was in fact untrue.

Two days after Walker was arrested, a man matching the description robbed the Golden Bird restaurant presenting a note to the cashier. Later that same day, a Burger King was robbed in the same manner. The notes both misspelled “start”.

The detectives later admitted under oath that they knew the robberies continued and didn’t tell anyone, including prosecutors. In other words, that Walker couldn’t have committed them. So why did they lie to keep an innocent man in jail? That may never be known.

When attorneys representing Walker learned that his fingerprints were not found at the store where he was arrested, they asked the LAPD for information on other robberies. The LAPD refused saying it was too burdensome to the department.

Later, a judge ordered the information to be disclosed. That is when defense attorneys learned that another man matching the description had been apprehended fleeing a robbery and that his fingerprints were found at the scene of the store Walker was arrested in.  When prosecutors learned of this, they dropped the charges against Walker.

A judge later pronounced him innocent of the crimes. Walker sued the LAPD and the detectives for violations of his constitutional rights and deprivation of his liberty without due process. A jury awarded him $106,000.  The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict, ruling that the Constitution protects suspects from “prolonged” pre-trial detention when concealed evidence could have demonstrated their innocence.

The city attorney’s office appealed to the Supreme Court. They argued that the constitutional ruling involving withheld evidence should only apply to a right to a fair trial not to arrest or pretrial detention.

The high court simply denied their appeal (Moody v. Tatum) without comment or dissent.  Mary Tatum is the administrator of Walker’s estate.

Walker died in 2011 from alcohol-related health problems. John C. Burton, who represented Walker in the civil rights case, said Walker’s health deteriorated after his release from jail. At one point, Walker became homeless. Burton said the jury award, which did not include any punitive damages, was relatively low because Walker was poor and could not show he suffered major economic loss.

The award is expected to be inherited by his mother.

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The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to pay $5 million to the family of Brian Beaird, an unarmed disabled man who was shot and killed by police on live television.  The council voted 12-2 in a closed session to approve the settlement to end a federal civil rights lawsuit.  Beaird (below) was a 51-year-old National Guard veteran.  He had been discharged in 1988 after undergoing brain surgery for a tumor removal.  He led authorities on an hour long chase after police attempted to pull him over for reckless driving.  Beaird ran red lights and stop signs in his silver Corvette before crashing into a car in an intersection.  The other driver was injured.  His vehicle spun onto a sidewalk.

Billy Beaird, his father, watched on live television as his son staggered out of the car, raised his hands, and was gunned down by police.

The family’s attorney, Dale Galipo, said, “[This vote] implicitly says they acknowledge that the shooting was inappropriate and should not have happened.  It seems to take a video [to get justice in a case like this].”

The attorney went on to say that Beaird was suffering from emotional problems and severe paranoia as a result of his brain surgery.  He was also suffering due to the death of 6 of his friends in a military helicopter crash.

“He couldn’t understand why the police were chasing him, and he didn’t know what to do,” Galipo said, “He called his family during the pursuit and asked what he should do. And they told him he should pull over…and he said ‘I’m afraid’.”

The lawsuit alleged that the police were inadequately trained, used inappropriate and excessive force, committed battery, and were negligent.

Two council members dissented, Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino, a former L.A. police officer.  Buscaino told the media that he felt as though due to the length and dangerousness of the chase the city could have challenged the case, “It’s very unfortunate on everyone’s part…”

Handcuffed woman ejected from LAPD patrol carA woman suffered serious injuries when she was ejected from a moving LAPD patrol car earlier this year.  It remains unclear how the woman fell out of the patrol car or how fast or reckless the officer was driving.  She is now suing the police department.  The LA Times was able to view some of the video footage from a nearby security camera that captured parts of the incident.  LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said it was not known whether an internal investigation had been opened.  He told the media that if there wasn’t one there would be now.  Patrol cars rear doors are equipped with locks police officers are required to engage when someone is in the backseat.  The incident occurred on March 17th.

Kim Nguyen, 28, and two friends were in Koreatown waiting in a restaurant parking lot for their designated driver.  Nguyen told the LA Times that a pair of LAPD officers drove by in a marked car, stopped, and then approached the group.  After questioning them, the officers left.  A short time later, they circled back as Nguyen ran across the street towards a café.

Nguyen, a student at the time at Loyola Marymount University was arrested and placed in the back of the patrol car.  When they placed handcuffs on her, she was told she was being taken into custody for suspicion of public intoxication.  Her friends asked the officers where she was being taken, but they refused to disclose the station or jail.  Video footage from a nearby building’s security camera, obtained by Arnoldo Casillas, Nguyen’s attorney, shows the patrol vehicle heading east on Olympic Boulevard and approaching Grand Avenue around 3:08 a.m.  The camera pans a few feet and shows Nguyen lying on her back in the street with blood visible on her face.  (more…)