Police Misconduct
& Criminal Justice

In Howse v. Hodous, Trump Sixth Circuit judge Amul Thapar, over a dissent, upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against a police officer who violently arrested a man on the front porch of his home even though he had done nothing wrong, and he and his mother had assured the officers that he lived there. Thapar agreed the arrest for obstruction of justice was permissible because Howse protested the arrest. The dissent countered that responding to police questions with a “smart mouth” was not a crime.

In Bey v. Falk, Trump Sixth Circuit judge Joan Larsen overruled a lower court’s decision to deny qualified immunity to four police officers who followed a Black man around Walmart and then questioned him in a parking lot after he lawfully purchased several items. The dissent wrote that the man was guilty of nothing more than “shopping while Black.”

In Goffin v. Ashcraft, Trump Eighth Circuit judge Jonathan Kobes wrote the majority opinion ruling that a police officer could not be held liable for shooting a Black man in the back as he ran away, even though the officer had conducted a pat-down search and found no weapons on him.

In Allen v. Batts, Trump Sixth Circuit judge Chad Readler voted to uphold a lower court decision rejecting William Allen’s claim that African Americans were systematically excluded from grand juries at the time of his indictment for murder in 1968. In dissent, Judge Moore noted that “between 1958 and 1971 Davidson County’s criminal court judges selected fewer than 26 African Americans to serve as grand jurors,” and that “the odds that the judges would have randomly selected as few African-American grand jurors as they did are approximately 1,000,000,000 to 1.”

In Jones v. County of York, Trump Pennsylvania district court judge Jennifer P. Wilson dismissed a lawsuit brought by an African American man who was arrested and subjected to cavity searches and medical scans at a hospital against his will. The searches did not uncover any contraband.

Although not in the majority, in Winzer v. Kaufman County, Trump Sixth Circuit judges James Ho, Kurt Engelhardt, and Andrew Oldham would have denied the family of a 25-year-old innocent Black man the chance to prove that police unlawfully killed their son.

In Cole v. Carson, Trump Fifth Circuit judges Don Willett, James Ho, Andrew Oldham, and Kyle Duncan dissented from an August ruling by the full court that a permanently injured teenager and his parents receive a trial on their claims that police officers used excessive force in shooting him. After Ryan Cole, a 17-year-old, pointed a gun at his own head during an acute suicidal moment, two police officers shot him multiple times. As a result, Cole now suffers permanent “cognitive impairment, partial paralysis, and other serious mental and physical injuries.”

In Smart v. City of Wichita, Trump Tenth Circuit judge Allison Eid would have dismissed a case involving the killing of Marquez Smart, who had done nothing wrong, was unarmed, and like the rest of the crowd around him, was running away from gunfire when officer Lee Froese shot him.

In Small v. Brock, Trump Sixth Circuit judge Amul Thapar would have upheld the dismissal of a prisoner’s claim that a guard had “brandished a knife” and threatened to kill him on multiple occasions. According to Thapar, the guards repeated threats did not violate the Constitution. A majority of the court disagreed, holding that “unprovoked and repeated threats to a prisoner’s life, combined with a demonstrated means to immediately carry out such threats,  constitute conduct” that violates the Constitution.

In Davenport v. Maclaren, Trump Sixth Circuit judge Chad Readler would have upheld the conviction of a man who was forced to wear handcuffs and shackles around his ankles and waist, without any stated justification, during his trial. As the majority held, however, “the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the use of physical restraints visible to the jury” unless there is a specific justification for using restraints.


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