ILNews

7th Circuit reverses ruling on police excessive force

Michael W. Hoskins
April 16, 2010
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that a prisoner should have the chance to proceed on a federal claim of police using unreasonable force during and after his arrest for which he's been convicted at the state level.

A unanimous panel ruled today on Ty Evans v. Frank Poskon, et al., No. 09-3140, which comes from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. The appellate judges reversed and remanded a ruling from U.S. Judge David F. Hamilton, who'd ruled on the case last year before he was elevated to that appellate bench.

Evans was arrested in 2005 for attempted murder and resisting arrest, and was convicted and sentenced to 71 years in prison. But as a prisoner proceeding pro se, he filed a federal suit in May 2007 accusing police of violating his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force during and after a police raid of his home. Judge Hamilton granted summary judgment for the defendants, finding that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), barred the 42 U.S.C. §1983 claim because Evans' assertion that he didn't oppose being taken into custody contradicts his conviction. Unless the resisting-arrest conviction was set aside, Evans could have no valid §1983 claim, the judge ruled.

But analyzing that decision, the panel found that Judge Hamilton didn't address nor did any of the attorneys apply another case that had been handed down just months before Evans filed his federal claim. The nation's top court in February 2007 issued a decision in Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), that held a claim that actually starts before a criminal conviction may and usually must be filed without regard to the conviction's validity. This would apply here so that Evans' claim about excessive force began before he was ultimately convicted and sentenced, the appellate court ruled.

Two of the three accusations Evans raises - that police used excessive force to arrest him and that they beat him severely even after taking custody of him - can proceed because they are compatible with his resisting-arrest conviction, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote. The third, that he didn't resist being taken into custody, cannot proceed.

"Evans is entitled to an opportunity to prove that the defendants used unreasonable force during and after his arrest," the chief judge wrote.

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