The Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, just upheld a jury verdict for excessive force and wrongful death in Mendoza v. City of West Covina.
Mr. Mendoza died of asphyxiation after being repeatedly tasered, punched, pinned down and restrained by West Covina police officers. The tragic altercation happened in a hospital, where cops had taken Mr. Mendoza after arresting him for burglary. He was suffering from alcohol withdrawal and also claiming to hear voices.
The Court held that the cop appealing the jury's verdict in the Section 1983 lawsuit had waived his qualified immunity argument on a procedural ground. However, the Court went on to analyze the issue anyway and found on the merits the cop's actions violated Mr. Mendoza's "clearly established constitutional right to be free from being tasered, punched, and pinned so hard on his stomach that he asphyxiated from any point at which he was compliant and not resistant."
The Ninth Circuit also recently reviewed an excessive force case. In Avina v. United States, a family sued the DEA after agents busted into their mobile home and traumatized the couple and their teenage daughters during a fruitless search for drugs. (Turns out the agents had the wrong mobile home anyway, thanks to someone copying down the wrong license plate number.)
The Ninth Circuit found that the family raised material issues of fact as to whether the agents committed state torts of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress when they cuffed, cursed at, manhandled and pointed a gun at an 11-year-old girl and her 14-year-old sister.
The Court found that: "Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Avinas, a rational trier of fact could find that agents engaged in 'extreme or outrageous' conduct when the agents: (1) pointed their guns at the head of eleven-year-old B.S.A. 'like they were going to shoot [her]' while B.S.A. was lying on the floor in handcuffs; (2) forced eleven-year-old B.S.A. and fourteen-year-old B.F.A. to lie face down on the floor with their hands cuffed behind their backs; (3) left B.S.A. and B.F.A. in handcuffs for half an hour; and (4) yelled at eleven- year-old B.S.A. and fourteen-year-old B.F.A. to '[g]et down on the f[uck]ing ground.'"