In the court of law, it never really mattered whether Roland Carnaby was a spy, as he claimed just before police gunned him down along the highway following a high-speed chase. After all, his widow, Susan, was suing the City of Houston and a pair of its police officers in federal court for excessive force and other civil rights violations.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison chucked Susan CarNaby's lawsuit out of court before a jury ever got the chance to hear testimony or see the video tape of the shooting. Ellison had previously dismissed the two officers from the lawsuit, finding that they reasonably feared for their lives when they shot Carnaby, and closed the book on the case Wednesday when he dismissed the city.
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However, says Susan Carnaby's lawyer, Randall Kallinen, the fight is not over. He plans to appeal the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He says his strongest weapon is the videotape of the shooting.
"In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court said that unchallenged video evidence is the highest form of evidence," Kallinen tells Hair Balls, "and based upon that I think the Fifth Circuit could overturn the judge's ruling because the judge is not supposed to rule on what he thinks a jury would decide but rather he's supposed to rule whether any reasonable juror at all could determine it was excessive force, because people have a right to a jury trial. And he basically decided that no juror could decide that it was excessive force by the officers, which is ridiculous."
Kallinen was hoping to prove that the city's cops have a pattern and practice of using excessive force during high-risk vehicle approaches, but he could not get past summary judgment. He says that even if the city's policies put officers in dangerous situations where people are killed, "the Fifth Circuit has this rule that in civil rights cases if the officers did not use excessive force then the city can't be held liable. That is not the law in other circuit courts."
As for Carnaby's widow, says Kallinen, "Susan is very disappointed but she's not surprised. This is Texas."