Tuesday, May 06, 2014

SCOTUS: 5th Circuit too quick to take cops' word in police shooting case

The US Supreme Court this week reversed the 5th Circuit's grant of summary judgment to Bellaire, TX police Sergeant Jeffrey Cotton who shot a professional baseball player, Robert Tolan, after accusing him of stealing his own car. The high court remanded the case for further evidence gathering, criticizing the trial judge and the 5th Circuit for taking the cops' word about events without considering the plaintiff's side. See SCOTUSBlog's page on the case and coverage from the Houston Chronicle, Think Progress, Prawfsblawg and Harmless Error.

As the Chronicle reported, "Cotton was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant by a Harris County grand jury. He was found not guilty at trial in May 2010 and continues to work as a Bellaire police officer." Tolan, for his part, now plays for the Washington Nationals.

Whether or not Tolan prevails, and there's still a long road ahead before he overcomes Cotton's qualified immunity to get the case in front of a jury, the ruling signals that the judge and the 5th Circuit were too quick to credit police accounts without investigating any specific allegations. At that, long-time 5th Circuit watchers could not be surprised.


rodsmith said...

typical gov't stooge attacks his mother and when he tells the cop to get his hands off his mother get's 3 to the chest! and it's just "accessive force" not attempted murder. hell that's what they charge a fucking citizen with if they just push one of their two-faced asses.

cop should get on his knees and thank god. touch any member of my family and you'd just be dead no matter who you think you are.

Anonymous said...

The short story here is Tolar drove "too fast" around a corner while being observed by a Bellaire cop. The same cop types in the wrong plate number and the vehicle report comes back as allegedly stolen. He calls for back up. Private citizens, while lawfully driving their own vehicle stop in front of their own house and are "commanded" to lie face down under a drawn gun in their own front yard. Within 32 seconds of the second officer arriving, Tolar is shot 3 times because he moved. Qualified immunity? I think not. Not even a comedy of errors, just another example of zealous cops rendering their brand of "no tolorence" law enforcement looking for protection by the courts. Nothing was unlawful until they showed up with their guns out. Another example why people hate cops!

rodsmith said...

I know scot won't let this stay long but as far as I and a lot of other American's are concerned once that first cop stepped on these citizens private property without a LEGAL reason! which died once the legal owners told the first cop the car was not stolen.

once the first cop started waving a gun around and issuing illegal demands they became automatically subject to 2nd amendment punishment. Hell criminal stupidity like this is one of the main reason's it's there!

sorry it's not our obligation to become a door mat or a fucking slug stopper because some tin-plated twit fucks up.

rodsmith said...

actually 2:05 your wrong!

nothing here about driving too fast!

"when he noticed a black Nissan sport utility vehicle turning quickly onto a residential street."

he was shot for one thing and one thing only!
"Edwards attempted to enter the license plate number ofthe vehicle into a computer in his squad car. But he keyedan incorrect character; Edwards exited his cruiser, drew his service pistol and ordered Tolan and Cooper to the ground."

CRIMINAL STUPIDITY on the part of the first office and

the second reason was this!

"As it turned out, Tolan and Cooper were at the home where Tolan lived with his parents. Hearing the commotion, Tolan’s parents exited the front door in their paja-mas. In an attempt to keep the misunderstanding fromescalating into something more, Tolan’s father instructed Cooper to lie down, and instructed Tolan and Cooper tosay nothing. Tolan and Cooper then remained facedown.
Edwards told Tolan’s parents that he believed Tolan and Cooper had stolen the vehicle. In response, Tolan’s father identified Tolan as his son, and Tolan’s mother explained that the vehicle belonged to the family and that no crime had been committed. Tolan’s father explained, with his hands in the air, “[T]his is my nephew. This is my son. We live here. This is my house.” Sergeant Jeffrey Cotton arrived on the scene anddrew his pistol. Edwards told Cotton that Cooper andTolan had exited a stolen vehicle. Tolan’s mother reiter- ated that she and her husband owned both the car Tolan had been driving and the home where these events were unfolding. Cotton then ordered her to stand against thefamily’s garage door. In response to Cotton’s order, Tolan’s mother asked, “[A]re you kidding me? We’ve lived her[e] 15 years. We’ve never had anything like this happen before.” The parties disagree as to what happened next. Tolan’s mother and Cooper testified during Cotton’s criminal trial1 that Cotton grabbed her arm and slammed her against thegarage door with such force that she fell to the ground. Tolan similarly testified thatCotton pushed his mother against the garage door. In addition, Tolan offered testimony from his mother and photographic evidence to demonstrate that Cotton used enough force to leave bruises on her arms and backthat lasted for days. Bycontrast, Cotton testified in his deposition that when he was escorting the mother to the garage, she flipped her arm up and told him to get his hands off her. He also testified that he did not know whether he left bruises but believed that he had not. The parties also dispute the manner in which Tolanresponded. Tolan testified in his deposition and duringthe criminal trial that upon seeing his mother being pushed, he rose to his knees, Edwards and Cotton testified that Tolan rose to his feet. Both parties agree that Tolan then exclaimed, fromroughly 15 to 20 feet away, 713 F. 3d, at 303, “[G]et your fucking hands off my mom.” Record 1928. The partiesalso agree that Cotton then drew his pistol and fired three shots at Tolan. Tolan and his mother testified that these shots came with no verbal warning. . One of the bullets entered Tolan’s chest, collapsing his right lung and piercing his liver."

second reason was the second office to arrive was a fucking retard full of his own god hood.

can't find it now but one of the reports state that 2nd officer fuckup was only on site for 32 SECONDS during which time he managed to upset everyone. ratchete up tention across the board assault an old lady and then shot an innocent citizen THREE TIMES IN THE DAMN CHEST!

or course to add insult to injury not only does the local jury let the murderous little fucker off but then the during the follow up civil suit the judge decides to toss it all before any discovery and the appeals court goes along.

Anonymous said...

I think the cop got off light but given the circumstances as portrayed by both sides, he still has little fear of being found guilty of anything or needing to pay damages. The family admitted to enough facts showing they were not cooperating and local courts have long deferred to the totality of circumstances when they favored officers. Had this played out the same way in more liberal parts of the country, Cotten would have been fired to protect the city from judgement and likely have a paper judgement against him since he wouldn't have deep pockets.

Rodsmith, I haven't seen Grits removing posts in a long time but if he does, it will be as a favor to you. Establishing that you go into any disagreement with a cop with a blood lust reserved for a lunatic is not something that would serve you well even if most of us dismiss you as a self righteous keyboard warrior full of himself.

rodsmith said...

actually 12:07 I don't meet every cop with as you call it "blood lust in my eyes" I just give them what they give me. I deal with law enforcement at least once a week in my job. I know they do a thankless dangerous job. I also know that like any other profession less than 5-10% are total fuckups and should be removed. The problem we have is in the current system they are not only protected but usually rewarded.

Show up on my property acting like a tin-plated god and an ass will get it right back at you.

in this case the cops were in the wrong from the very beginning. the first one made a mistake. That is not legal ground to do a damn thing. then he compounded it be refusing to stop and consider that he MIGHT have made the damn mistake and talked to the other people on the site and taken 5 sec's to look at the fucking paperwork in the damn car.

then it was compounded by gov't fuckup number two. who aggravated an already tense situation and in less than 32 sec had assaulted a private citizen on their own fucking property but shot an unarmed INNOCENT citizen.

Sorry on my property that would simply get your ass dropped no matter what costume you had on at the time. nobody has the legal right to shoot unarmed innocent people ANYWHERE. at that point they themselves are legally a target for anyone who wants to drop them like any other rabid animal

as for this continual criminal stupidity that the cop is automatically in the right bullshit that's not in the constitution ANYWHERE. in fact the constitutional requirement that any conviction be BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT would argue the exact opposite that in fact in any conflict between the state and a citizen the burden of proof should always be on the state.

Anonymous said...

Best advice to start with: don't live or drive in Bellaire. They make Houston city cops look downright friendly by comparison and are expected to aggressively enforce the law as a condition of employment according to their chief and mayor.

Second best advice: when dealing with military, police, or anyone else with a weapon, lose the ego and follow instructions. In almost all encounters, the outcome will be better for you and those in the proximate area. The belief that any piece of paper is going to protect you from immediate harm or gives you the right to combat is countered by the longstanding history of western civilization for the courts to defer to the state official. This history predates Rome and whatever excesses you think take place now are minimal compared to those of not very long ago.

I know some of you don't believe it but cops are people too. They can make mistakes and in a situation where you think the cop has no right to do anything, the courts have repeatedly held otherwise. Escalating a confrontation with an armed official is beyond stupid when mere compliance would soon square things away. Then, you can work to get the guy fired, sue him, or whatever but had any of the civilian participants pulled out a gun and started making demands, I'm willing to bet things would have been a lot worse for the entire family. Pick your battles.

rodsmith said...

ah 4:14 that's part of the problem for far far too long we have done that and the stupidity from gov't just get's worse and worse and their actions that are beyond taking just increase. Time to draw a line in the sand and drop em when they cross it.

our bigger problem is thanks to the government's dumbing down of American via the school system being the ONLY gov't program that is a rousing success they manage to get away with it all at the most important stage. The follow up trial. Look at this fuckup he shot an innocent man 3 times in less than 32 sec's and got a pat on the fucking head in the criminal trial. Sorry but in a just world he would have gotten FIRED and stripped of his right to continue in that type of job anywhere at a bear minimum. as for fighting it after the fact in court. Just look at the shit this one person had to go through. Had to take it all the damn way to the United States of America's Supreme Court just for the RIGHT to put the damn case in front of a fucking jury.

Anonymous said...

I might be way off here but... After reading all the links listed in the text of this article, starting with the typo error on the plate indicating a stolen vehicle, and forcibly walking Tolan's mother over to the garage door served as intentional catalyts for escalating the situation. These cops wanted this confrontation. Think for a second, what makes anyone madder than hell? Being accused of theft when it is not, combined with a possible assault on your mother on your own property. I sincerely believe these cops already knew how to provoke a reaction with people they didn't think belonged in Bellaire. Multiple shots fired by Cotton 32 seconds after arriving at the scene? That is quick work product. Now both of them are hiding behind the law to protect them. After you think about it a second, was it really reasonable? Tolan's reaction was the only reasonable action that night, "Get your f'n hands off my mother", Cotton knew exactly what he was doing, then used cop jargon to justify it. Both cops may prevail in their case, (I hope not) but they will be in the headlines again soon in another abuse of authority case.

Anonymous said...

All cops are jack-booted thugs. Eye for an eye. They must not get away with murdering innocent Americans.