Residents of Maricopa, Arizona, trust law enforcement officers to keep them safe. Even police officers can make poor decisions, and in rare cases, they may even make malicious decisions. A jury has acquitted several officers in the death of a mentally ill man in another state, but the man’s father is still pursuing a wrongful death suit against the city.
According to court records, surveillance video of the incident shows six police officers involved in beating a man. The officers allege that the man did not respond to commands and was an apparent threat. The man’s father states that his son was schizophrenic and likely did not understand the officer’s demands.
In a trial for two of the police officers, the jury was shown a 33-minute video of the incident. Reportedly, the content of the video is shocking. Based on the video, which showed police officers punching and kneeing the man as he called for his father to help him, family members were confident that the jury would return with a guilty verdict.
According to reports, juries don’t generally like to convict police officers. Court records show that defense attorneys used the video to illustrate for jurors that the police officers had reasons for their actions. This included the fact that the man allegedly ran from police and put up a violent struggle.
Regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial, the man’s father has a right to file civil litigation. While a jury in a criminal trial may be reluctant to convict a police officer for actions taken on the job, a jury in a civil trial may be less reluctant to hold the city responsible for the actions of its officers. According to reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigations is also reviewing the details of the case and federal charges may be filed.
Source: Arizona Daily Sun, “Experts: Video played role in officers’ acquittal” Gillian Flaccus, Jan. 14, 2014