Gary talks about a recent shooting by a police officer that was caught on the dashboard camera in his police car. This case gets into the mechanics of our legal system and shows us an example of a judges power over a jury.
Maureen: Hello there and welcome to Legal Break. I’m Maureen Akers and with us today is Gary Bruce, our guest as always on Wednesdays. Thank you so much for joining us, we enjoy bringing legal tips and questions to our viewers, and enjoy having Gary help us out on that as the expert. So, recently there was an officer-involved shooting that was, I guess, resolved, if you will is the word, in Alabama recently. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Gary: It wasn’t so recent, and it’s been on your website, and reported in the local news, but when a lawyer released the video- the dashcam video. I think it was a 2014 shooting by an officer, and a young man who’d gotten out of his car on a on a, kind of, routine traffic stop and held his wallet up in the air. So, the officer shot, and shot him. And so what happened was this: the young man I think survived it, but brought a 1983 action. And that’s a way to bring an action against a police officer, or Police Department, for excessive force- a violation of civil rights.
So, it’s a little different than just a tort case, it’s not about, like a negligence case, or that type of thing you do in state court- this has to be brought in federal court. And most of the time our communities and our law enforcement have immunity, so this is a way around that. So, that the standard is high. So that’s what happened, so they brought the case, they went to Montgomery, and it was- and this is important: apparently the defendants brought what’s called a “motion for summary judgment,” they moved to the court to dismiss the case, to throw it, out because there wasn’t enough evidence to support that claim. And so the court did, and then they appealed, the plaintiffs appealed, the injured man appealed the case, to the appellate courts in the federal system. And the federal judges also, looked at this film apparently, and said there is no way a jury could determine that there had been excessive force used. And that’s what I think is troubling about it, that’s what people have looked at this and go, “well, I don’t know this kind of seems a little excessive to me, to pull a gun on somebody.”
The important lesson I think too learn from it is, the judges took it from the jury, and this is something that happens a lot in cases. If there is not enough factual evidence to support a case, it can be taken from the jury, and it can be dismissed. And then so that’s kind of what happened here, that I think they’re considering an appeal now to the Supreme Court of the United States, whether that happens or not I don’t know. But it’s an interesting case because of the mechanics of our system, and the and the federal court system.
Maureen: Yeah, well briefly then, so I guess it depends on the situation, but you could you could sue a police officer- you, or I, or the viewers?
Gary: It happens, and this is an example of how it happens.
Maureen: Okay, very good. So, for more information, you can contact Gary Bruce. Thank you so very much for joining us today, Gary, and we look forward to seeing you on the very next Legal Break.