Thursday, January 26, 2012
High Court Allows Suit Against Deputy Who Shot Fleeing Suspect
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a ruling by this district’s Court of Appeal that allows the parents of a 25-year old man killed by a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy to pursue a wrongful death claim against the county.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, unanimously denied the county’s petition in Beets v. County of Los Angeles (2011) 200 Cal. App. 4th 916.
Div. Eight ruled in November that the conviction of Glenn Rose’s girlfriend on a charge of assaulting the officer who fired the fatal shot did not bar a claim for the wrongful death of Rose under Heck v. Humphrey (1994) 512 U.S. 477.
Rose was fatally shot in May 2008 after he and Sarah Morales allegedly stole a 1991 Honda Accord and led California Highway Patrol officers on a pursuit from the Pomona Freeway on to surface streets in Covina.
After the Honda became disabled, the couple abandoned the car in an alley in the 300 block of 1st Avenue, and took a 1989 burgundy pickup truck that was parked in the same alley. Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Winter and three other officers stopped their patrol vehicles in the alley and ran to the truck, with Winter approaching the driver’s side, where Rose was seated.
While the truck was still parked, Rose allegedly attempted to strike Winter through the driver’s window, and Morales kicked and punched the officers who had approached the passenger side of the truck.
Rose then started the truck and drove it forward, colliding with a CHP patrol car across the alley. Rose put the vehicle in reverse, moving it toward Winter, who was running after the truck, and then hit the patrol car again.
He reversed a second time, in the direction of Winter, who moved out of the truck’s path and to the passenger side of the vehicle. Rose then brought the truck to a momentary stop, at which time Winter drew his gun and shot at Rose. A shot hit Rose in the chest and caused fatal injuries.
Morales was later tried and convicted of two counts of driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon or by force likely to produce great bodily injury or death on a peace officer—including one count based on actions directed at Winter, one count of evading a pursuing officer, and one count of resisting an executive officer.
Writing for the appellate court yesterday, Justice Madeleine Flier noted the prosecution’s theory at trial was not that Morales was the direct perpetrator of the assault on Winter, but that she was guilty as an aider and abettor of Rose.
In 2009, Rose’s parents filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the county and Winter, asserting violation of 42 U.S.C § 1983 and state law claims for battery and negligence.
District Judge Manuel Real found the Sec. 1983 claim was barred by Heck—which held that a person convicted of a crime cannot sue for a civil rights violation if a judgment for the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence. He dismissed the state claims on jurisdictional grounds, allowing the plaintiffs to sue in state court.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dan T. Oki sustained the county’s demurrer on the basis of Heck, but the Court of Appeal said a suit based on the allegedly wrongful death of one person cannot be barred due to the conviction of another.
Justice Madeleine Flier suggested that if Rose had survived and been charged with a crime, he could have received a separate trial from Morales and could have been found not guilty. Although this outcome would have been inconsistent with the outcome of Morales’ trial, it would not invalidate her conviction, Flier said.
“Rose is entitled to his day in court, Morales already had hers,” the justice remarked.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company