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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Ind. Decisions - "Appeals Court: Evansville PD not shielded from liability in SWAT raid lawsuit"

Yesterday's 7th Circuit decision in Louise Milan v. Billy Bolin (ILB summary here, tweeted as - "J. Posner references Keystone Kops in Evansville opinion") (see also this June 3 ILB post, including links to video of the police raid) is the subject of this long story today (with video) posted mid-afternoon by Mark Wilson of the Evansville Courier & Press. Some quotes:

EVANSVILLE - A federal appeals court said the Evansville Police Department “committed too many mistakes” to be shielded from liability in a woman’s lawsuit over a 2012 SWAT raid on her home.

The ruling, released Friday, compared Evansville police to the comical Keystone Kops of silent film and suggested that broadcast video of the failed SWAT raid on the wrong house may have hurt race relations in the city.

The panel of three appeals court judges upheld a ruling by United States District Court Judge William Lawrence that said Louise Milan’s claim that police used excessive force can receive a jury trial.

“That really was the whole main focus, excessive force. We think the court saw it the way we do and not as police do, and we think the jury is going to see that way too,” said Kyle Biesecker, Milan’s attorney.

Milan’s lawsuit is asking for unspecified damages as a result of the raid, during which police threw two “flash-bang” grenades into the house while attempting to serve a search warrant.

“It’s mostly emotional distress, damages and attorneys fees — and hopefully a policy and procedure change will come out of this so it doesn’t happen again,” Biesecker said.

Milan says police violated her Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights when the SWAT team tossed flash grenades into her home at 616 E. Powell Ave., and forced their way inside to serve a search warrant on June 21, 2012.

Police officers were looking for evidence of anonymous Internet posts to a message board threatening the police department and Chief Billy Bolin. The officers did not find any evidence in the home.

However, police damaged Milan’s house, handcuffed her and her daughter and seized their computers, according to the lawsuit.

Officers were only able to glean while there was an open wireless Internet connection in the home and the threatening posts were not made from inside the house, according to court records.

The following day police arrested Derrick Murray for the threats. He pleaded guilty to a federal charge of transmitting threats in interstate commerce and was sentenced to spend 16 months in prison and then three years on supervised release. * * *

The judges noted that the search of Milan’s home was video recorded by an accompanying television news crew and by a camera on the helmet of a SWAT team member.

In the appeal ruling Posner wrote:

“The handcuffing of the daughter, looking indeed much younger than her 18 years, is shown on the helmet video along with the rest of the search, and she is so small, frail, utterly harmless looking, and completely unresisting that the sight of her being led away in handcuffs is disturbing...there was no conceivable reason to handcuff her.”

He went on to say that, “From what we can observe on the videos, all the members of the SWAT team were white, Mrs. Milan and her daughter black; the broadcasting of the videotape cannot have helped race relations in Evansville.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 1, 2015 08:15 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions