Let’s Go To The Videotape!
Video evidence of encounters with police can be vital in civil rights excessive force cases. Our firm recently resolved such a case, largely because a dashcam video recorded the events culminating in our client’s arrest and, what we believe to be, excessive force against her in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In this case, our client was struck by a police squad car. The police officer (and the city of Minneapolis) denied any wrongdoing. As such, we placed this matter into suit in Federal Court.
Predictably, the Defendants brought a motion for summary judgment. The Defendants requested the Court to rule that our client had no case because there were no facts at issue.
The core of the Defendants’ argument was that the police officer accidentally struck our client with his squad car and, therefore, she (our client) was not “seized” under the Fourth Amendment. A Fourth Amendment seizure occurs as a result of a car collision only where the police officer intended the collision to be the result.
The police officer claimed that he applied the brakes in an attempt to stop his vehicle before hitting our client, but his car slid forward due to light frost on the ground. The officer asserted that our client ran into the front of his car, rather than the car being driven into her. The police officer claimed that he accidentally, rather than intentionally, struck our client with his car.
We argued otherwise. The officer testified in his deposition that he turned his car into our client’s general direction in order to prevent her from fleeing. Moreover, rather than asking if our client had been injured, as one might expect following an accident, the officer screamed expletives at her. Our client also claims that the officer kicked her, although this was not in view on the video.
It can certainly be difficult to prove what anyone intended to do, even with the existence of video. There’s often, especially in the absence of video but even when video exists, very conflicting testimony about what actually happened.
In this case, the Court determined that the cumulative evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that the police officer struck our client intentionally rather than by accident. “Most problematic for Defendants,” wrote the Judge, “is the dashcam video.”
The Court ruled that the police officer was not entitled to summary judgment on our client’s excessive force claim. With a jury trial looming, the case was settled for an amount that reached six figures.
Video often proves that what actually happened does not always get recorded into the official reports. Most people, including judges and members of juries, trust and believe the police. Having a video is sometimes, as in this case, essential because it gives standing to a person who may otherwise be disregarded or disbelieved.
With our client’s permission, we have posted the link to the video of the above-incident on our website (www.magnalaw.net) on the News & Views page. See video above.
Download this Newsletter: Newsletter- volume 1, issue 1