Tuesday, April 1, 2014

High Courts Say Citizens Can Legally Defend Themselves Against Cops Who Use Excessive Force; Judge Les Meade Makes Huge Error in Judgment

In light of recent events involving local police many citizens are left wondering what recourse they might have in the event that a situation arises where an officer uses excessive force against them. 

It’s a fair question considering the fact that LPD officers admittedly threatened to kill Tim VanderPlaats after he accepted a hug from one of the officer’s girlfriends.  VanderPlaats was later beaten unconscious, leaving many to wonder whether or not police officers acted on the verbal threats.  Astonishingly, the officers are still patrolling Lafayette streets.

Interestingly, the question of using force against a rogue cop was answered in a 2006 ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals after justices unanimously overturned a ruling by Tippecanoe County Superior Court Judge Les Meade involving a citizen’s right to defend himself against a police officer who used excessive force.  

The details of the ruling didn't receive much media coverage, however, so many citizens remain in the dark concerning this obscure, but important common law.  Self-defense is as old as the Magna Carta, and yet a Tippecanoe County judge did not believe it to be so.  The actions Meade took in the courtroom that day should concern every Tippecanoe citizen, especially since he is seeking a higher judicial office in the upcoming election.
Judge Les Meade was overturned on appeal.

At issue was whether Meade “committed a reversible error when he declined to give a proposed instruction that informed the jury about a defendant’s right to protect himself when arresting officers use excessive force.”

The proposed instruction, which was denied by Meade, read, “The law does not allow a peace officer to use more force than necessary to effect an arrest, and if he does use such unnecessary force, he thereby becomes a trespasser, and an arrestee therefore may resist the arrester’s use of excessive force by the use of reasonable force to protect himself against great bodily harm or death.  If you find that Officer’s Myer and Wilson used more force than necessary to effectuate the arrest, then Shane Wilson was permitted to resist the arrest to such an extent as necessary to protect himself from great bodily harm or death, and you must find him not guilty of resisting law enforcement…”

Meade erroneously ruled that a person could not resist an unlawful arrest and stated that a person must bring an action later, but not resist the arrest.  According to the ruling Meade made this as a statement of law in error.  AttorneySteve Knecht aptly pointed out at the time that “a defendant who is killed by [an] arresting officers’ excessive force would be unable to pursue a civil court action.”  Meade reportedly acknowledged Knecht’s statement, but still refused to allow such an instruction to be given to be given to the jury.

To add insult to injury, Meade did allow a deputy prosecutor to inform jury members “that they had ‘taken an oath to follow the [erroneous] instructions by the judge’ and that they should notice that the instructions given to them did not state ‘that if the officer is shooting your tire, that gives you the license to take off.  There is not going to be anything that even resembles that in the instructions.’”

The prosecutor’s statements were false, because not only does a jury have the right to judge both the law and the facts, but the Court of Appeals also ruled that they should have been instructed that citizens have the right to protect themselves against bodily harm when excessive forced is used by a police officer.  This common law has also repeatedly been upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

“Meade has shown poor judgment in this and other cases,” commented one Lafayette resident who asked not to be identified.  “He has threatened to put lawyers and police officers in jail and he just doesn’t have the right temperament to sit on a judicial bench in any courtroom.”

The Overturned Case: Clinton County Officers Fired Shots at Fleeing Vehicle Injuring Defendant

 

The appeals case involved Shane Allen Wilson of Mulberry who was appealing his conviction of resisting law enforcement by fleeing, a Class D felony.

The Court of Appeals provided a case history in its ruling.  We have provided the history, in part, below to give our readers an idea of what was at stake in the matter:

On September 6, 2003, Officer Matthew Myers, a Clinton County Deputy Sheriff and Town of Mulberry Police Officer, noticed a red, white and blue truck proceeding down a road in a rural area of Clinton County, Indiana.  Myers knew that Shane owned the truck and that an arrest warrant had been issued due to an alleged violation of Shane’s probation.

Officer Myers initiated a stop just as Shane turned onto a county road in Tippecanoe County.  Although Myers parked at least fifty feet behind Shane’s truck, he heard Shane protesting screaming and immediately confirmed Shane’s identity.  Shane, appearing nervous and agitated, told Officer Myers, ‘Let me go, or I’m going to run.’  Officer Myers jogged to the truck as Shane started to pull away, and Shane stopped the truck.  Officer Myers then requested that Shane put the truck in park, turn off the engine, and exit the vehicle so the two could talk.  Shane partially complied by putting the truck in park.

Shane then stated that this would be the day he (Shane) would die if Officer Myers persisted in taking him to jail.  Shane asked Officer Myers to ‘give him a break and let him go,’ and Officer Myers informed him that he could not do so.  At some point during the conversation, Officer Myers, who had recently talked to Shane’s parents about the arrest warrant, remarked, “fifty-seven days left,” to indicate the amount of time left on the warrant.  Shane’s truck started ‘to roll again,’ but Shane applied the brakes when Officer Myers told him to do so.  Shane then became very agitated and began to cry.

Mulberry Town Marshall Glenn Wilson soon arrived and walked up to the truck while Officer Myers continued to talk to Shane.  When Shane saw Wilson, he said, ‘Let me go, Glenn…’  Wilson responded, ‘Shane, you know you’ve got to go to jail today.’  Shane then began yelling that he couldn’t go to jail.

At this point, the State’s evidence is conflicting.  Officer Myers and Wilson testified that Shane started to pull away at a high rate of speed, and then both officers began shooting at the truck’s tires.  Clinton County Deputy Sheriff Jared Blacker testified that just before he turned a corner near the scene he heard the shots, and as he turned the corner he observed the truck’s tires spinning as it began to ‘take off…’

Wilson flattened the truck’s left rear tire by firing two shots from his handgun. Wilson then tried to shoot the right rear tire but hit the license plate instead.  Officer Myers fired seven shots at the truck as it moved away from the scene.  Some of the shots hit the truck’s bed, and one shot passed through the back driver’s window and out the front windshield, resulting in a head injury to Shane.  Shane proceeded a quarter mile down the road, where he jumped out of the truck and ran to a nearby barn.  He surrendered to the officers without further incident.

Shane was subsequently charged with and found guilty of resisting arrest by fleeing.  Officer Myers and Wilson both were charged with criminal recklessness, but neither had been tried at the time of Shane’s trial.  Shane was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with one year suspended.  He now appeals.

The Ruling: Protecting Citizens From Overly-Aggressive Cops


Lafayette attorney Steve Knecht
The decision, handed down on February 17, 2006, was unanimous.  Judge Les Meade had erred by not allowing the jury to be instructed on Shane's right to self-defense when these officers were obviously using excessive force that could have killed him.

In its ruling, the court cited a previous Supreme Court ruling (Plummer) wherein the defendant shot and killed the Kentland Town Marshal after the officer struck him with a club and fired shots at him.  The defendant returned fire and killed the marshal.   

In that case, the Indiana Supreme Court held that a police officer "may not use more force than necessary to effect an arrest.”  The court held that “if an officer is resisted before he has used “needless force and violence,” he may then “press forward and overcome such resistance, even to the taking of the life of the person arrested, if absolutely necessary.” 

The ruling went on to say, “The court noted that the marshal had not indicated to the defendant that he was under arrest and that there had been no necessity for the marshal to strike the defendant with his billy club.  The court reasoned that the marshal therefore became a ‘trespasser’ and that the marshal’s assault with the billy club, coupled with the discharge of his weapon, ‘gave [the defendant] the clear right to defend himself.’”
"When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, and is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self-defense, his assailant is killed, he is justifiable.”
The justices noted that Meade “erroneously believed that the rule stated in [the Plummer case] had been set aside.”

The court did caution; however, that citizens “may not resist a peaceful, though illegal, arrest” and said the ruling “was not intended as a blanket prohibition so as to criminalize any conduct evincing resistance where the means used to effect an arrest is unlawful.”
“We concluded that a citizen has the right to resist an officer that has used unconstitutionally excessive force in effecting an arrest, but the force used to resist the officer’s excessive force may not be disproportionate to the situation.”
In the end, Shane's conviction was duly vacated.  You can read the entire ruling at this link.

7 comments:

  1. I think it's safe to say that gone are the days when juries take the word of a police officer over that of a citizen-defendant. They only have themselves to blame.

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  2. I don't understand this. The guy was a criminal violating his probation. He refuses to comply with the officer and takes off in his truck. The officers fire at the truck flattening a tire. Didn't the whole thing begin because the guy violated the law? What are the police supposed to do? Are they supposed to turn loose every criminal that doesn't comply?

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  3. What's not to get? Once the cops started shooting at him (over a warrant that was about to expire, really?) the issue got much bigger. They charged him with "crimes" of feeling and resisting arrest for his behavior once they started shooting at him. The cops committed real crimes in going after the guy with an almost expired warrant. If you don't get this, there's not much hope for you, friend.

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  4. Here's a question for you Mr. Meade. It's one thing to say that a person can take an excessive force police violation to civil court, but quite another to afford the lawyer and work through a cumbersome legal system. Are you serious, sir?

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  5. Meade is about the most dishonest judge to ever sit on a Bench! He purposefully "further disintegrates" families causing young children to be raised fatherless without any of the US Supreme Court required "compelling reason or cause" for the sole purpose of bringing money into his County, by which he has a "conflict of interest" and in direct violation of IC 35-44.1. He is either clueless regarding simple logic, not to even mention the law, or perverse - to the point of rewriting a clause in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines just so he could then Order a well meaning father to do jail time when the father was "guilty" of nothing more than driving his daughter to visit with her out-of-state elderly paternal grandmother. The Guidelines are authored by the Indiana State Legislature and also endorsed by the Indiana Supreme Court, and in one fell swoop Meade's pure arrogance extended the authority of his personal private dictatorship above two of the three branches of Indiana State Government. Not only should Meade be Ruled in Contempt of the Indiana Supreme Court, he should be Impeached for what the Constitution labels "Bad Behavior". And now he's running for a higher judicial position. Wake up Lafayette! He who is unfaithful in little is what? If you vote for this maniac you'll get what you deserve.

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  6. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2007/05/

    "I always had complete confidence that the justice system would work properly," Meade said, "and it has."

    You hypocrite!

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  7. Judge Meade is by far one of the most ignorant and arrogant persons I have ever encountered in the legal system. Ignorance and arrogance are a troubling combination. His court room is ran much like that of a circus and his intelligence, or perhaps lack thereof, is astonishing. He's a disgrace to the bench and I concur with the others who have embarked on the need to dismiss Meade from the bench.

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