On Friday, IMLA filed its brief in Wyatt v. Gonzalez, a petition stage Supreme Court case, which involves a question of whether immaterial discrepancies in a police officer’s recollection of a stressful event amounted to a “genuine issue for trial” where the plaintiff offered no contradictory evidence. In this case, the police officer was trapped inside a vehicle controlled by someone who had already committed several dangerous felonies. The officer shot and killed the driver of the van, after he resisted verbal commands and non-lethal force. The plaintiffs did not dispute that the driver of the van “stomped” on the accelerator with the officer trapped inside. Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit ruled that summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim was inappropriate because the parties disputed how fast the van was traveling at the time the officer employed deadly force.
IMLA’s brief argues that the Ninth Circuit’s focus on the speed of the van is misguided, as that particular fact is not material for the purposes of the summary judgment analysis. Moreover, the Ninth Circuit seems to have created a heightened burden for police officers in deadly force cases at the summary judgment stage by reasoning that the primary witness that would be available to contradict the police officer’s testimony is no longer available. IMLA argues that this heightened standard is contrary to Supreme Court precedent. To read IMLA’s amicus brief in this case click on the following link: http://www.imla.org/images/links/Amicus/14-108 Amicus.pdf
Image courtesty of Flickr by Phil Roeder (creative-commons license, no changes made).