The Rutherford Institute has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for help from the justices to protect the rights of a police-beating victim.
The case is over a beating inflicted by police officers in Oklahoma on Jeriel Edwards, who was in his parked car, inebriated, when officers from Muskogee, Oklahoma, confronted him.
He was complying with police orders but “was subjected to excessive force and brutality, including being thrown to the ground, tasered, and placed in a chokehold that rendered him unconscious and required his hospitalization for three days.”
Lower courts gave a pass to those officers.
“If you ask police what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.
“The problem is what to do when compliance is not enough. How can you maintain the illusion of freedom when daily, Americans are being shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, challenge an order or merely exist?”
The case stems from the beating that happened on October 25, 2016.
“Jeriel Edwards was sitting in his car in the parking lot of a Muskogee Wendy’s restaurant in Muskogee, Okla., when he was approached by a police officer and ordered to put the car in park and provide his identification,” the institute noted. “According to body and dashboard camera video, the officer then ordered Edwards to exit the vehicle and remove his hands from his pockets. Edwards complied with all of the officer’s orders. A second Muskogee police officer arrived at the scene. Edwards was ordered to face the vehicle and place his hands behind his back. One officer grabbed Edwards’ right arm while the other officer shoved his head into the corner of the car door. Edwards was then slammed to the pavement. As the officers pushed Edwards’ head and neck to the ground, they also placed a knee on his body to pin him to the ground. Edwards repeatedly asked why the officers were abusing him, but got no answer.”
“Instead, the first officer fired a taser at Edwards as he lay on the ground. A third officer arrived on the scene and made two striking motions at Edwards, the impact of which can be heard on the body camera video. A fourth officer arrived at the scene and put Edwards in a chokehold. As the four officers dragged Edwards to the ground, another joined the fray and held Edwards down by digging his knee into his body. Edwards lost consciousness en route to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ICU.”
Video of the encounter:
The appeal explains that although the lower courts used the video to dismiss the claims, the plaintiff noted “respondents’ compilation of ‘uncontroverted statements’ based on Foreman’s bodycam video was ‘for the most part misleading and false.'”
“In particular, petition emphasized that the video creates a critical, material dispute as to whether he refused to comply with commands and resisted officers or had attempted to comply, albeit slowly due to intoxication, and was prevented from placing his hands behind his back because officers threw him to the ground, pulled his shirt over his head and arms, and pushed him forward onto his hands on the pavement.”
The petition charges that the video reveals any resistance was because the officers were “physically aggressive” and even then, resistance was minor and “a natural response to being thrown to the ground.”
The filing said, “At a moment in history when videos of citizens’ interactions with police are at the forefront of national discourse, there is an urgent need for this court to clarify the proper standard governing video evidence used to support or oppose a motion for summary judgment in a civil-rights case… Widespread inconsistency and confusion exists among lower courts as to whether Scott v. Harris licenses courts to interpret video evidence at the summary-judgment stage to decide which party’s version of events a video best supports, or instead requires that courts, consistent with traditional summary-judgment rules, put aside their interpretations of what a video shows, draw inferences from video evidence in a nonmovant’s favor, and evaluate only whether a reasonable jury could adopt the nonmovant’s version of events. A civil-rights plaintiff ’s path to a jury may depend—as it did for petitioner—on inferences from video evidence. And too many courts, like the court below, are blocking that path through analyses that cannot be squared with this court’s summary-judgment jurisprudence.”
The officers claimed Edwards was under the influence of PCP and posed a threat during the confrontation.
The officers themselves described their actions as “three closed fist punches, striking him with a flashlight, the tasing of Edwards, and ‘stapling’ of that tasing.” And they said “lateral vascular neck restraints” were used.
There was no weapon found on Edwards or in his car.
Further, the video shows the officers did not give Edwards time to follow their order to put his hands behind his back, Rutherford contends.
“The officers intentionally prevented Edwards from turning around and had his only free arm completely extended and pressed against the car door, literally making it impossible for him to obey their commands.”
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