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Vol. 38 No. 6 Nov / Dec 2009
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Highlights of This Issue

Special Bulletin:
  • Police Killing 15-Year-Old Boy Was Not Constitutional Violation

United States Supreme Court Action

  • Selected Pending Cases for the 2009-2010 Term

Federal and State Decisions

  • Arrest, Search and Seizure Issues: what constitutes an arrest; handcuffs; search warrant; trash can evidence; warrantless search; drug dog alert; automobiles; search incident to arrest; Arizona v. Gant, retroactivity; private search; scope of police search; investigative stop; reasonable suspicion; consent; cooccupant; taint of illegal arrest; second entry; right to privacy; jailhouse phone calls; exclusionary rule
  • Interrogation Issues: what constitutes “interrogation”; waiver; need for repeated warnings; alleged drugged suspect
  • Police Evidence; Trial Procedure Issues: admissibility of audio/video of drug buy; police recordings of search warrant deliberations; admissibility of crime lab reports without the direct witness
  • Civil Liability/Personnel Law Issues: false imprisonment; sheriff’s failure to release bonded prisoner; liability for illegal searches; withdrawal of consent; liability for excessive force; “suicide by cop”; gender discrimination; failure to promote female officer; hostile work environment; rudeness by coworkers; municipal liability for sexual misconduct of employees; scope of employment; disability discrimination; safety issues; liability for age discrimination; transfer; counsel fees for municipal defendants


Special Bulletin
United States Supreme Court
Arrest, Search and Seizure
Police Evidence; Trial Procedure Issues
Civil Liability / Personnel Law
Annual Digest/Full Copy Service
Annual Index of Cases Reported
Renewal Form; Internet Services
    Special Bulletin: Deadly Force; Killing Fifteen-Year-Old Suspect; Qualified Immunity
    Chappell v. City of Cleveland, No. 08-4456 (6th Cir. 2009).

    This law suit involved the tragic shooting by police officers of a fifteen-year old boy in his own bedroom. While conducting a protective sweep of a home in the early-morning darkness prior to executing a search warrant, the officers encountered a male suspect hiding in a bedroom closet. When they ordered him to come out and show his hands, the boy came toward the officers with a knife upheld. When he ignored their commands to drop the knife and continued to move toward the officers in close quarters, they opened fire, killing him instantly. The administrator of the boy’s estate brought a civil rights suit against the officers, alleging the use of deadly force was excessive, as the officers were not under imminent threat of serious bodily harm. The court ruled the officers were entitled to qualified immunity.

    “The house was still dark; the detectives proceeded from one room to another with flashlights, firearms drawn. While the detectives say they announced themselves several times as ‘Cleveland Police,’ others present at the house [including two other police officers, testified they] did not recall hearing this. As the detectives approached what turned out to be McCloud’s bedroom on the second floor, they found the door closed. They barged into the small bedroom, each taking a position inside the room on either side of the ‘fatal funnel’ formed by the opening into the room. Across the dark room, they spotted McCloud hiding in the closet. Their flashlights and firearms trained on him, they ordered him to come out of the closet and show his hands. After first hesitating, McCloud turned and came out of the closet, holding a knife in his right hand with the blade pointing upward. Ignoring their commands to drop the knife, McCloud continued to move quickly toward the detectives. Believing they were threatened with imminent serious bodily harm, both detectives simultaneously opened fire, each striking McCloud with several shots, killing him instantly. The entire encounter transpired in a matter of seconds.”

    “[I]t was not McCloud’s actions of picking up a knife and hiding in the closet that precipitated the use of deadly force. If the detectives had fired immediately upon finding McCloud hiding in the closet with a knife, their actions would certainly be held objectively unreasonable. Instead, it was McCloud’s undisputed actions of quickly advancing toward the officers while holding the knife up and refusing to drop it that precipitated their use of deadly force. Even assuming the detectives had not effectively identified themselves as police officers and that McCloud still failed to recognize them as such even as they stood in his bedroom with flashlights and handguns trained on him, McCloud had a momentary opportunity to consider how to react to their commands. . . . [McCloud] chose not to comply with the command to drop the knife. And he chose to continue advancing toward the officers with the knife held high until he reached a point within five to seven feet of them before they fired in self-defense.”

    “. . . [Q]ualified immunity protects officers from liability for mistakes of law and fact. Plaintiff has failed to adduce facts demonstrating that defendants, in potentially misinterpreting McCloud’s actions, were plainly incompetent or deliberately violated his rights when they acted in self-defense. . . .”


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