Case Examples

Estate of Clint John vs. Farmington Police Department, CIV 07-557 BB/LFG (USDC)

13 Jun 12
  • Case Type: Civil Rights
  • Ruling: Jury verdict in favor of our client.

On June 10, 2006 at 4:20pm, John Clint and his girlfriend were shopping with their daughter at a Farmington Wal-Mart. While the two were paying at the register, an argument escalated about a man John’s girlfriend may have had a friendship with.

John’s girlfriend ignored John until they reached their GMC pickup truck in the parking lot. At this point, John began to throw groceries into the truck. His girlfriend was concerned he would break glass containers in the grocery bags so she admonished John for acting in such an aggressive manner. Both began to yell at each other in front of their four year old daughter. Eventually, John’s girlfriend dialed 911 for assistance.

When John realized his girlfriend was calling police, he took the cell phone from her hands and smashed it on the ground. He then struck his girlfriend in the face and threw her into the truck.

Meanwhile, a Farmington Police officer was on patrol when he received a call on a domestic violence incident at Wal-Mart. Dispatch gave details of an eyewitness that said there is a man, “beating up his wife or girlfriend,” near a green Chevy pickup. The officer made his way to the Wal-Mart parking lot to investigate.

Over the dispatch, the officer received information that a possible rape was taking place at the scene. When the officer reached the scene of the report, he located John and his girlfriend near the green Chevy. The officer noticed John’s girlfriend in the cab of the truck with a distraught look while she adjusted her clothing. The couple’s daughter was in the pickup bed and John was leaning near his truck in what appeared to be a calm and relaxed manner. The officer ordered John to step away from the truck. John cooperated by walking toward the officer. The officer proceeded by shoving John back into the truck. John then shoved the officer back.

A fatal exchange then took place. The precise details of what happen went disputed. The Defendants claimed John gained control of the officer’s baton and swung it at the officer. The defendants claim he tore a button off the shirt of the officer. The Plaintiffs provided through testimony from an eyewitness who said they did not recall John ever swinging a baton at the officer. The Plaintiffs asserted John was attacked by the officer with the baton without being provoked by John.

Regardless of the precise details, just moments later, the officer fatally shot John in from of his girlfriend and daughter.

John’s family attorneys filed a federal law suit against the officer claiming that the officer’s actions that day were an indefensible violation of John’s civil rights. The Plaintiffs brought the following counts in their complaint: Unconstitutional Illegal Seizure and Excessive and Unnecessary Use of Force by the Officer against John in Violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Unconstitutional Illegal Seizure and Excessive and Unnecessary Use of Force by Officer against John’s girlfriend and daughter in Violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Supervisory Liability for the Officer’s Fourth Amendment Violations, Police Chief’s Failure to Train, Conspiracy to Deprive Citizens of the Equal Protection of Law, Wrongful Death, Battery, Vicarious Liability for Tortuous Acts, and Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice and Conceal Pattern of Illegal Contact.

Only three of the claims made it to trial: The jury only saw one of the claims presented in court. Jurors in U.S. District Court exonerated the officer from claims that he had used excessive force. Jurors deliberated for about 15 hours before they returned a verdict in favor of the defendant and was dismissed on its merits.