6/3/2011Louisiana: Cops Beat Up Old Man For Accelerating Slightly
Appeals court upholds $25,000 fine on Louisiana police officers who beat an elderly man during a minor traffic stop.
Police in Louisiana slammed a 67-year-old man into the ground, arresting him over a questionable traffic violation. The state court of appeals ruled May 11 that Calvin D. Miller's injuries were only worth $25,000 in compensation. Miller had been driving his big rig logging truck home to Florien on US Highway 171 at 5:30pm on July 13, 2007. As he passed through the Village of Hornbeck, Officers Kenneth Hatchett, Jr., and Andy Mitchell, 19, pulled him over because he began speeding up "about 100 feet" before the limit changed from 45 to 55 MPH. Having driven the road for the past forty-seven years, Miller was quite familiar with the speed limit. He insisted he was not speeding.
"I can see right now you're going to need an attitude adjustment," Officer Hatchett said to the five foot, six inch tall elderly man.
Miller punched his own fist, then turned his back on the officers and began walking away. They threw him to the ground, deliberately slamming his head into the concrete so he could be handcuffed tightly. After Miller's wife bailed him out, Miller went to Byrd Regional Hospital where physicians documented the gash on Miller's forehead, the swelling and bruises and the injury to his wrist and arms. His missed two weeks of work after the incident.
"You don't turn your back on a cop," Officer Hatchett explained.
Both officers denied knowing how Miller's head came into contact with the concrete road shoulder. Eleventh Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Bruce Beasley did not find their testimony credible.
"Officers Hatchett and Mitchell had the considerable advantage of youth, height, weight and weaponry over Miller," Beasley ruled. "There was no testimony that Miller, at any time during the altercation, brandished or was perceived to possess a weapon. Although Miller was attempting to leave the scene, the stop did not require taking him into custody."
Beasley found the officers entirely at fault for Miller's injuries and awarded him $25,000 in damages. The officers appealed the ruling, insisting they had full immunity from prosecution. A three-judge appellate panel rejected the claim and upheld the judgment in full, declining to adjust the damages up or down.
"The totality of the circumstances support the trial court's finding that the two young armed officers faced little or no risks from Miller for his crime of 'speeding' (assuming it to be true) shortly before he actually reached the fifty-five-mile-per-hour sign," Judge Shannon J. Gremillion wrote for the appeals court. "There is no error in the finding that the force used was excessive and not motivated by officer safety, but to adjust Miller's attitude."
A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.