Judge limits police expert testimony in excessive force case

December 17, 2015

A defense expert may not testify whether he believes a Richmond police officer used excessive force when he punched an unruly man in the face three or four times while the man was handcuffed to a hospital gurney.

George Pat Altizer sued several Richmond police officers over an incident that occurred at his home in November 2012. Police arrived after neighbors called to complain about a loud argument Altizer was having with his daughter’s boyfriend.

According to the record, Altizer had an adverse reaction from mixing alcohol with his heart medications, passed out, hit his head and began to vomit. An ambulance was called, but Altizer became uncooperative on the way to Reid Hospital. Once there, he kicked a nurse and several people restrained him as officer John Retherford punched Altizer’s face which injured his nose.

Altizer filed a nine-count federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, but Judge William T. Lawrence in June granted summary judgment in favor of the Richmond defendants on all counts except Altizer’s excessive force claim against Retherford.

Lawrence issued an order Wednesday granting Altizer’s motion in limine limiting the testimony of designated expert Steven Guthrie, who concluded in a report that the actions of Richmond officers were justified and reasonable. The report, likewise, is not admissible as an exhibit under 7th Circuit Court of Appeals precedent, according to the order.

“Mr. Guthrie may offer his expert opinion on the use of police force in general,” Lawrence wrote. The case is George Pat Altizer, et al. v. John Robert Retherford et al., 1:14-cv-31.


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