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When people today ask me what kind of law I practiced back in Alabama, I say threshold law. When that gets a puzzled look, or a request for clarification, I say, whatever walked over the threshold into my law office, I took it on.
Let’s proceed further today with the wrongful death civil rights lawsuit recently filed in state court against the City of Key West and 13 police officers, arising out of the death of Charles Eimers in the hands of those officers last Thanksgiving Day. I say 13 officers, and not 12, because Key West the Newspaper –www.thebluepaper.com – published an update, that the plaintiffs’ lawyer had inadvertently left out of the lawsuit filed against the city and 12 police officers, a police officer seen in the bystander’s video to approach Charles Eimers with gun drawn, while Eimers puts his hands over his head and lies face down on the sand to prepare to die, as he soon discovers.
In defense of that officer and the other 12, here is Key West Police Chief Donie Lee’sletter to the editor in yesterday’s Key West Citizen, which I was not able to copy and reproduce in yesterday’s To Protect & Serve might be a selective enforcement phenomenon in Key West, if you are homeless, or are suspected of being; plus some affordable housing cha cha mumbo jumbo post at www.goodmorningkeywest.com. Mi amigo Deer Ed knew a way to copy and post it into yesterday’s www.bigpinekey.com‘s popular Coconut Telegraph kudos and whiners forum:
[Police Chief Letter] Although I cannot comment on an open law enforcement investigation, I feel it is my duty to my city and the members of the police department to comment on the April 6 editorial in the Key West Citizen regarding the incident that occurred on South Beach on Thanksgiving Day.
It appears the editorial board has come to its own conclusions regarding the investigation still underway by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Until that investigation is complete, such speculation is inflammatory and perhaps completely wrong. The Eimer’s family has suffered a terrible loss, and our officers have suffered aspersions that sully their reputations in this community.
The editorial insinuates that the use of excessive force is a problem faced by the Key West Police Department. That is not the case. In fact, the Citizen’s Review Board – made up of independent and unaffiliated members of the Key West community – receives an amazingly small number of complaints of excessive force. The CRB, in fact, only received two complaints of any kind in 2013. The department’s internal affairs office, likewise, receives relatively few such complaints.
This is a statistic that we are proud of, considering we have tens of thousands of interactions with the public, and those interactions range the gamut from barroom brawls to arresting violent felons. It’s remarkable the level of patience and discretion exhibited by this city’s officers on a daily basis.
Once the FDLE makes its findings, the Key West Police Department will then conduct an internal affairs investigation to ensure that our officers conducted themselves within the policies of the department. If we find they did not, they will be held accountable.
I too am eager to see this investigation completed. Until then, I ask the community, and its community newspaper, withhold their conclusions.
Donald J. Lee Jr., Chief of Police, Key West -KW Citizen
Nashville J had choice comments about Lee’s letter; J lives in Nashville, Tennessee and has visited Key West a couple of times; I only know him through email back and forth:
From today’s post:
“Donie doesn’t mention the lawsuit in his letter, in which he says, “our officers have suffered aspersions that sully their reputations in this community.”
What sullies their reputation in Key West is the fact that what the Officers said was NOT what really happened. The Officers LIED and tried to cover this up from the start. They are still trying to cover it up. Donnie Lee can not watch the video and still stand behind what his Officers said – it is clear they LIED. It is also clear that by taking the fifth, at least 12 of them feel that if they tell what really happened, the TRUTH, they have something to be concerned about and they might self incriminate themselves and be open for charges or lawsuits from the family.
This is what I think about what Donnie Lee says:
Kurt Wagner also minced no words in an email to numerous recipients, including many KWPD officers; Kurt has lived off and on in Key West as a vicious criminal van dweller, and presently is house-sitting on St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands; I don’t remember what Kurt looks like, so if the Key West police nab me and show me most-wanted photographs, I won’t be able to identify him:
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: KWPD Chiefs Letter
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2014 11:26:18 -0500
Donnie Lee’s criticism of The Citizen editorial is laughable. His officers have “suffered aspersions that sully their reputations in this community” What reputation? The reputation of harassing the homeless? The reputation of looking the other way when tourists break laws? The reputation of showing favoritism to the “elite” Maybe Donnie Lee should disguise himself and spend some time watching his “storm troopers” in action. Spend a week at Higgs Beach, Bayview Park, Mallory Square, and Duval St. and anywhere else the homeless spend their time.
He claims that because there have only been two complaints in 2013 that HIS department does not have a problem with the use of force. Does he really think a homeless person will file a complaint? They all know it’s a waste of time to do so. Hatman is a perfect example of what happens when you butt heads with KWPD. You accomplished that mission KWPD, Hatman finally left town.
He then goes on to say after FDLE finishes their investigation, KWPD will investigate themselves. We all know how that will turn out. He also wants the community and the community newspaper to withhold their conclusions. All that’s needed to form a conclusion is to watch the video, posted by The Blue Paper.
In defense of Donnie Lee, I’m sure he is only “following orders” So were the Nazi war criminals.
Well, Hatman, who will be missed by many in Key West, did seem to sort if like butting heads with the KWPD.
When I lived on the street in Key West, all I wanted was for the police to leave me alone; I wasn’t bothering them, or anyone else, so why did they bother me?
Tim Gratz, of Key West, who, like me, practiced law on the mainland some years ago, replied to my wondering in yesterday’s post whether the KWPD police officer defendants in the Eimers family lawsuit can be subpoenaed and required to testify, even if they take the 5th?
RULES TAKING FIFTH IN A CIVIL PROCEEDING
Sloan, I am quite sure I can recite the rules.
A witness who takes the Fifth can never be required to testify unless he (she) is granted immunity, which sometimes happens.
But the witness can be required to take the Fifth in front of the jury and the jury can and usually is instructed that it is entitled to draw an adverse inference from the invocation of the Fifth.
Thus if witness A is on the stand in a civil wrongful death suit and plaintiff’s attorney asks the defendant: “Did you shoot (victim) in the stomach on (such and such a date)?” and witness takes Fifth, the jury can be instructed that it can infer that the defendant did indeed shoot the victim.
That is as I understand the basic rule,
The granting of immunity is a tricking thing,
I know of at least one case where the defendant refused to testify even after being granted immunity so the judge sentenced him to jail for contempt. As you know in such a case the defendant can stay in prison until he agrees to testify, or until the term of the court expires.Quite sure I correctly restated the general rule re invoking Fifth in a civil suit but perhaps a licensed attorney reader can correct or expand.
Finally, as I stated before I have the greatest respect for Atty Horan and I am confident he will get to the truth here.
Thanks, Tim, I imagine the blue line will be thrilled to read yours; as might others also be thrilled. I’m maxed out for today on sending out bulk emailings; the blue line will get yours tomorrow. Sloan
Looks to me that what Tim’s analysis boils down to is:
Under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (let the master answer), what the police officers did as city employees was the same as the city doing it. The Eimers family’s lawyer can subpoena all 13 KWPD officers to be deposed, and later to testify at trial. If the officers then take the 5th, the jury can take that as admission of their guilt. And of the city’s guilt.
I have a number of other law-schoolish scenarios floating around in my noggin, which maybe I should keep in there for now.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the plaintiffs also will sue the police chief, and the city manager, for whom the police chief works, and the city commissioners and mayor, for whom the city manager works, because the city commissioners and the mayor set the tone for how their police were to engage homeless people, so the city commissioners and the mayor ultimately are the reason Charles Eimers died.
That theory of liability is similar to the top Nazis giving the orders and their underlings killing millions of Jews.
Will a jury buy that argument? Will a judge? Will a law school professor? The jury in God’s court bought it.
Please leave your names and snail mail addresses with The Secretary at Law on your way out, so she will know where to send her bill for services rendered. She will give most of the fee to Naja and Arnaud Girard,
who co-publish Key West the Newspaper, which broke the Eimers case wide open.
Is the KWPD having fun yet? Well, do they think Charles Eimers had fun last Thanksgiving Day? Do they think Charles’ family had any fun with KWPD since learning Charles died in their care?
Political advertisement paid for and approved by Sloan Bashinsky, for Mayor of Key West