Friday, June 14, 2013

Cavanaugh v. Woods Cross City, Utah, 2013 WL 2501748 (10th Cir. June 12, 2013): On a previous appeal, this civil rights case alleging excessive force was remanded for trial. The jury found that the cop did not use excessive force where the officer tased in the back a woman he knew was mentally ill. she fell, hit her head and was severely injured. There was sufficient evidence that the officer thought the woman was an immediate threat, justifying the tasing, where the officer had responded to a report that she had left the house with a kitchen knife (not known whether it was a butter knife, paring knife, or samurai cleaver), he encountered someone in the front yard wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over the head (highly suspicious in February in Utah), she wouldn't answer the cop when he shouted at her, she had her hands under her armpits and no shoes on, she began walking rapidly toward her house, the cop grabbed her and ordered her to stop, she shook free and began running for her house, and the cop shot her in the back, causing her to fall and hit her head on the steps to her house. The neighbor's account was quite different, but the jury could believe the cop so the evidence was sufficient. The Court rejected some challenges to the jury instructions. In addition, it concluded that any error from allowing evidence that the cop subjectively feared bad things might happen if the woman reentered the house was cured by telling the jury that that standard was "objective" and did not depend on the officer's motivations (because jurors always understand and follow the instructions).