CHICAGO - A federal appeals panel ruled a federal judge, who was presiding over the trial in a lawsuit brought by a man against the Chicago police officers who shot him, did not violate the man's rights when he repeatedly reminded the jury that a Cook County criminal court judge had determined the man had a handgun at the time of the police-involved shooting, despite the man's claims he was unarmed when he fled from police.
Circuit Judge Diane B. Sykes authored the opinion, as circuit judges Joel M. Flaum and Daniel Manion concurred in the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 28. Plaintiff Dallas Green filed the appeal after a federal district court jury sided with police officers Green had sued over the incident.
Green argued that the judge shouldn’t have instructed the jury that a state court’s ruling that Green had a gun on him was conclusive and found to be a fact.
“The contested jury instruction was sound,” Sykes wrote. “Green’s excessive-force claim was premised on his contention that he was unarmed during this encounter. But the state judge found that he had a gun, and that finding has preclusive effect here.”
The incident took place in November 2010, when Green was walking through a Citgo gas station lot in November 2010 when an unmarked Chicago Police Department car pulled into the lot. He ran, and the police gave chase. One officer said Green pointed a gun in his direction, so he shot Green five times in the hand and chest.
Green sued, alleging he was unarmed and the police shot him without justification or cause.
A jury, however, sided with the police officers at trial.
In addition to objecting to the judge's ruling concerning his possession of a handgun, Green also took issue about how the lower-court judge delivered the jury instruction. He said the judge gave the jury the instruction on three separate occasions: when Green took the stand and said he dropped a cell phone, not a gun, while running from officers in a Citgo parking lot; when he said he was unarmed when he fought with an officer in a backyard; and when he testified he didn’t have a gun at all that night.
The appeals court said the frequency of the instruction was not an error on the lower court judge’s part.
“We cannot fault the judge for reading the instruction at these points during Green’s testimony. Indeed, it was reasonable for him to do so,” Sykes said.
Green also appealed the lower court’s exclusion of the testimony of an Illinois State Police lab technician who said she didn’t find fingerprints recovered from the shooting location that would be deemed usable. Green hoped her testimony would prove he didn’t have a gun, but the lower court judge said it wouldn’t align with the state court’s finding that Green indeed did have a gun.
The appeals court found no abuse of discretion.
Lastly, Green argued that his 2009 felony conviction should not have been considered in the trial. But the appeals court pointed out that Green was the one who first brought it up when he pleaded guilty to a previous drug possession charge, so that information was fair game after that.
The appeals court also backed the lower court’s decision to deny Green more time to file a supplemental memorandum to back his request concerning the jury instruction.