Join me at 7pm Live – The SCOTUS issued an opinion today protecting the sanctity of the Fourth Amendment protections of the home, which also served as an anti-red-flag ruling, restricting the police from performing warrantless searches of homes to seize firearms.
This is just in time for recent updates on two of our search and seizure cases with the same or similar issues: the Putnam County drug task force search case and the WV Family Court Judge Search case.
Join me Live for #FreedomIsScary No. 62 about a federal #CivilRights #Lawsuit I’m working on on behalf of a black man from Kentucky – the son of a police officer BTW – who was arrested in Mercer County, West Virginia for allegedly installing fiber optic cables while black. He was allegedly in the private driveway of this West Virginia Natural Resources police officer, who apparently has an extremely loose dress code.
I (The Civil Rights Lawyer), as someone who practices in the area of #ExcessiveForce #CivilRightsLitigation, give my analysis on the #ChauvinVerdict from yesterday. I’ll take you through the actual jury instructions to explain what the jury decided. And also what they did not decide.
Here’s the recent study data I discuss in the video. Polling data established that the media and irresponsible politicians and social justice warriors have majorly skewed public perception on so-called systematic racism in police shootings. Here’s the data to review for yourself:
So, the respondents, after being asked whether they identify as liberal or conservative, were asked,“If you had to guess, how many unarmed Black men were killed by police in 2019?” Over 22% of people identifying themselves as “very liberal” responded that they believed 10,000 or more unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019. Even 13% of people identifying themselves as “conservative” placed the number at 10,000 or more. Over 40% of conservatives thought the number was at least 100 or more.
In reality, the number is actually between 13 and 27 unarmed black men who were killed by police in 2019.
The Washington Post has created a database of every known deadly police shooting in America since 2015. As of April 14, 2021, 6,211 people have been shot and killed by law enforcement officers. 46% of them—2,883 to be exact—were white, while 24% (1,496 total) were black. Just 6% were unarmed.
One of the most pernicious myths about police shootings is that officers shoot unarmed black men at an alarming rate, when in fact just 2% of the people who were killed by an officer were unarmed and black. Since the beginning of 2015, law enforcement officers across the country have actually killed 33 more unarmed white people than unarmed black people.
The statistics do show that black people are statistically more likely, per capita, to be shot and killed by police. How is this explained? The assumption used by the media and politicians is some sort of implicit or systematic racism, bias or prejudice. But that’s ignoring all other statistics.
Engage in more criminal activity and you have more interactions with police. More interactions with police equals more shootings, both justified and unjustified.
For instance, although blacks comprise just 13% of the US population, they accounted for 53% of the murder and non-negligent manslaughter arrests in 2018 (the most recent year for which FBI crime data is available), 54% of all robbery arrests, and 37% of all violent crime arrests. Whites, on the other hand, comprise 76% of the population but made up just 44% of the murder and non-negligent manslaughter, 43% of the robbery, and 59% of the total violent crime arrests.
In Milwaukee, for instance, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s homicide tracker has recorded 890 total murders in the city since the beginning of 2015. A staggering 79% of the victims are black. In 2021, that percentage has jumped to 91%, as 31 of the 34 people killed in Milwaukee as of this writing were black.
The unfortunate reality is that just as blacks are statistically far more likely to be the victims of homicide or other violent crimes, they are also statistically more likely to commit violent crimes that would bring them into conflict with a law enforcement officer with his or her gun drawn.
On Friday we filed a lawsuit against Putnam County and the individual members of their “SEU” – Special Enforcement Unit – for an illegal search of a family’s residence in Putnam County, West Virginia in April of 2019. These were the same guys from the Dustin Elswick video. Here’s the full complaint (sorry it was omitted earlier, but NOW here it is):
Then this morning we received motions to dismiss from the defendants in the Family Court Judge Search case. Here’s the memorandum arguing for dismissal for the judge, based on judicial immunity, and somewhat surprisingly, the 11th Amendment:
The U.S. Supreme Court recently held oral arguments in the Caniglia v. Strom case, where law enforcement has been seeking the official establishment of a “community caretaking” exception to the warrant requirement which protects a person’s home. You can listen to the arguments here.
You can hear that the justices are concerned/obsessed with the hypothetical scenario of an elderly person having fallen, or been injured, in her home. Some neighbor of family member calls for the police. They show up at the door; there’s no answer; can they go in without a warrant? If they don’t, maybe the woman has “fallen and can’t get up.” And maybe she doesn’t have Life Alert…..
That’s the hold up here. The questions from the Court didn’t sound promising at all. This is a case where both the ACLU and the Gun Owners of America submitted amicus briefs. This is a we-the-people vs. the government issue. Unfortunately, the Court seems overly concerned about the potential liability of police officers who engage in wellness checks.
But it’s really a non-issue. The proper answer to Judge Roberts’ hypothetical is the reality that there never would be civil liability for an officer who technically violates the Fourth Amendment just by checking on grandma during a wellness check. Why? Because of qualified immunity. Any lawsuit stemming from such a scenario would be granted qualified immunity. And even if he/she weren’t, the measure of our constitutional rights is not a policy analysis about the costs or efficacy of law enforcement agencies, who have insurance for these reasons, defending against civil lawsuits.
This afternoon, oral arguments were held in the case of Walker v. Donahoe – the AR-15 open carry case out of Putnam County, West Virginia. I’ll discuss what happened in a live debriefing at 6:30 pm, which is in 4 minutes…..
Here’s a link to the actual recording of the arguments, if you missed it live:
Here’s an excerpt of my argument, as taken by my staff:
Here’s the video of the underlying incident, if you haven’t seen it:
Brand-new police body-cam footage shows an outrageous detainment and arrest of an innocent guy shopping in Walmart with his poor toddler. I break it down, explain some of the relevant law, and show what happened. This couldn’t have gone much worse. Multiple Fourth Amendment violations….. and then there’s Walmart.
Reasonable suspicion is required to perform an investigative detention. Probable cause is required to perform a warrantless arrest. The “Graham Factors” are assessed to analyze the legality of the use of force which occurred. I’d guess the police here will fail miserably on all three.
Police officers with the Chicago PD traumatize a nude woman, who was just minding her own business in her home, which is caught on Video via bodycams. Her lawyer then dismisses her case because he misunderstood the law. Oops. You may have seen this case in the news, but I go behind the headlines and examine the incompetence not reported in the news, and explain what the law is for civil rights lawsuits following search warrant cases where there’s a wrong address and plain ‘ole incompetence.
You have to either allege that the warrant was invalid, or if that can’t be done, you have to attack the affidavit supporting the warrant. To succeed, Plaintiffs must prove Defendants “deliberately or with a ‘reckless disregard for the truth’ made material false statements in [their] affidavit” which were necessary to the magistrate’s finding of probable cause. Miller, 475 F.3d at 627 (quotingFranks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155–56 (1978). Or, Plaintiffs must show Defendants omitted “material facts with the intent to make, or with reckless disregard of whether they thereby made, the affidavit misleading.’” Id.
“To determine materiality, a court must excise the offending inaccuracies and insert the facts recklessly omitted, and then determine whether or not the ‘corrected’ warrant affidavit would establish probable cause.” Id. (internal quotations removed). “If the ‘corrected’ warrant affidavit establishes probable cause, no civil liability lies against the officer.”
“Reckless disregard can be established by evidence that an officer acted with a high degree of awareness of a statement’s probable falsity,” meaning an officer had “serious doubts as to the truth of his statements or had obvious reasons to doubt the accuracy of the information he reported.” Id. (internal quotations removed). For omissions, “reckless disregard can be established by evidence that a police officer failed to inform the judicial officer of facts [he] knew would negate probable cause.” Id. (internal quotations removed). However, negligence or innocent mistake “will not provide a basis for a constitutional violation.” Id. (quoting Franks, 438 U.S. at 171).
I had two separate federal civil rights lawsuits where excessive force incidents were captured on video by the exact same camera. One of them resulted in an epic legal drama, which established law still used today. In fact, this case is now discussed in two different law school text books on civil rights law. It was an amazing journey, and I spent several years in Parkersburg, West Virginia litigating these cases.
The first video was the “Sawyer” case. Here was my quote from the front page of the Charleston Gazette newspaper, back when the appellate decision was issued:
“Today the citizens of West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia North Carolina and South Carolina have more constitutional protections than they did yesterday,” John Bryan, Sawyer’s attorney, wrote in a statement.
“As a result of today’s ruling, which affirmed the District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, law enforcement officers will be taught to treat people differently, and that if they fail to do so, there will be consequences. Because of Brian Sawyer, and the federal court system, millions of people have more freedom. And that is something I am very proud of.”
Here is the order issued by the Southern District of West Virginia, throwing out the jury verdict, and finding as a matter of law, that the officer committed excessive force. I still haven’t heard of anything like this happening in any other case:
And here is the Fourth Circuit opinion affirming the order. Despite being labeled “unpublished,” as per the court rules, this opinion has now made its way into two different law school text books on civil rights law: