In a remarkable example of activist interference from the bench, the judge who sat for the jury trial of a police shooting has attempted to set aside the jury’s verdict and reject their award of damages to the family of the victim in the deadly shooting.
The judge, last week overturned a jury’s decision that granted more damages to the family of a woman who was fatally shot by police after an hours long standoff that had been partly streamed live on social media. Cases like this have occurred in Georgia and resulted in large recoveries, mainly due to the police not taking reasonable steps or acting reasonably under the circumstances. Most people refer to this as unreasonable force.
The judge has made it clear that he would become “the 13th juror” and has specifically tried to side-step the jury’s verdict. The woman was shot several times by a police officer in as she sat in her apartment with her toddler son. In fact, her son was so close to her when the officer opened fire, that her son was struck in the face by the officer’s gunfire.
After a fair and impartial trial, the jury found that the first shot the officer had fired at was not reasonable and awarded damages on the grounds that the police had violated the plaintiff’s civil rights and had committed what amounted to a battery on the mother and toddler son. Now, a year later, the judge has ruled that the police officer who wrongfully fired on the mother and son was entitled to qualified immunity, a protection used to defend government officials from civil liability while they are acting in an official capacity.
For wrongful death, the plaintiff in Georgia files a negligence complaint against the police officer and the police department for causing another’s death. The plaintiff may be the administrator of the deceased person’s estate, the spouse and/or surviving children of the decedent, the adult child of the decedent, and/or the parents of a deceased minor or adult child. The claim alleges that the police were negligent in causing the decedent’s death. The plaintiff must show negligence, breach of a duty, causation, and damages and is usually based on excessive force claims.
Excessive force claims, like the example above, receive the most publicity, perhaps because the results of excessive force seem the most outrageous, involving serious physical injury or death. Whether the officer’s use of force was reasonable depends on the surrounding facts and circumstances. The officer’s intentions or motivations are not controlling. If the amount of force was reasonable, it doesn’t matter that the officer’s intentions were bad. But the reverse is also true: if the officer had good intentions, but used unreasonable force, the excessive force claim will not be dismissed. Unless there are some exceptional circumstance, whether the force used was reasonable under the circumstances is a question for the jury. In my opinion, a judge should not step in after a jury trial on this issue. In other words, the jury is competent and qualified to determine whether the forces used by the police officer was reasonable based on the facts and circumstance
For almost 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, personal injury, claims against city and county police departments and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of the negligence of others in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area, including Alpharetta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured or died as a result of negligence and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.