Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Motion for directed verdict in Joplin Police trial denied

The lawsuit against Joplin police officer James Kelly continued today after U. S. District Court Judge Richard E. Dorr denied a defense motion for a directed verdict at the end of the plaintiff's case.
Kelly is being sued by James Keener, who says the officer violated his civil rights during a drunk driving arrest on April 1, 2000.
According to court records, Keener was driving at 30th and Main on that date when "a Joplin police officer began following (him) without (his) knowledge." Keener drove the remaining two and a half blocks to his home, pulled into the driveway and parked his car in the carport. He turned off the car and went into his house through the rear door.Shortly afterward, Officer Kelly "entered the residence and began assaulting plaintiff." It wasn't long before other officers arrived and joined in, the complaint said. The other officers are listed as "John Does" in the complaint. The Joplin Police Department was initially listed in the complaint but the judge dismissed the department as a defendant.Keener was sprayed with Mace "injuring his face and eyes and damaging the carpeting in (his) residence so that it had to be replaced."The door to Keener's house was also damaged, the complaint said, as well as a personal computer, glassware and other personal property. The police had no arrest warrant and no search warrant, facts which have been stipulated by both sides.
After Keener was subdued, he was handcuffed and taken to the Municipal Jail, where he was placed in a cell "with no running water or toilet facilities for a period of over eight-and-one-half hours while his wife tried to post a bail bond for him," according to the complaint.
Keener says the officers' actions were a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and "unlawful and unreasonable use of force incident to an arrest."Keener is asking for compensation for his injuries and for his "emotional distress," damages for his property and punitive damages.
In his response, Kelly said he began following Keener because of his "erratic driving" and was using his emergency lights. "Plaintiff failed and refused to stop." Any injuries Keener suffered, the response said, "were brought on by plaintiff's resisting arrest, becoming combative and his drunken condition."An exhibit list filed today by the defense indicates evidence presented will include the DWI ticket, an April 1, 2000 mug shot of Keener, his Missouri and Kansas rap sheets, the use of force report, the alcohol influence report and the dispatch log.
According to court documents, Keener denied committing any traffic violations and disputed Kelly's claim that he activated his emergency lights before Keener was in his home.
Keener claims Kelly violated his Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search or seizure while Kelly claims he had every right to enter the home and arrest Keener due to the doctrine of fresh pursuit, which previous court rulings say is permitted following traffic violations and previous rulings that have said suspects may not avoid an arrest by retreating to a private place.

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