The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today upheld lower court decisions in the suit seeking damages for the mother of Bobby Moore, killed by police officer Josh Hastings during the investigation of a car burglary.
Moore’s mother, Sylvia Perkins, won a $415,000 jury judgment against Hastings, but before it went to trial, Judge Brian Miller issued a summary judgment for the city of Little Rock and then-Police Chief Stuart Thomas. That was critical because they were potential deep pockets for payment of a verdict in the case. Those decisions were affirmed today.
The decision recounts Hastings’ checkered record as an officer and the circumstances of the killing of Moore. Hastings was fired by Thomas after the Moore shooting. Two trials of him for manslaughter ended in hung juries.
Perkins argued that the city had a “widespread custom” of excessive force and untruthfulness and that Thomas and the city had failed to properly train and supervise officers. The 8th Circuit agreed with Miller’s finding that the plaintiffs hadn’t established a pattern for these allegations. Hastings got little defense as a good police officer.
Perkins has not presented sufficient evidence to show that Thomas had notice of a pattern of excessive force by Little Rock officers, nor has she shown that he acted with deliberate indifference. Hastings’s disciplinary record indicates that he was a lazy and careless police officer, seemingly unable to complete the paperwork requirements or meet the scheduling demands of police work. He also engaged in unbecoming conduct and used inappropriate language. While those violations of the police department’s general orders or rules and regulations speak volumes about Hastings’s general unfitness for police work, they do not establish a pattern of constitutional violations, nor do they show that Thomas’s failure to train orsupervise Hastings resulted in Moore’s death.
Here’s the 8th Circuit opinion. I’m expecting a comment from Perkins’ attorneys, who will take exception to the ruling. Judge Lavenski Smith of Little Rock was one of three judges on the panel that participated in the ruling.
UPDATE: From Michael Laux, Perkins’ attorney
We are incredibly disappointed by the 8th Circuit’s ruling this morning. There were hundreds of material facts contained in our 214 page submission that were summarily disregarded just like in the District Court. These facts paint an accurate portrait of a department that historically turns a blind eye toward not just unjustified deadly force incidents, but other serious misconduct. Let us not forget, we are not required to prove our case at this stage. In any event, we certainly do not rule out petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court. Please stay tuned.