Appeals Court on Michael Brown's Death: Ferguson Isn't Done Yet

by | July 26, 2017

By Robert Patrick

An appeals court on Tuesday upheld a federal judge here who refused to dismiss a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson and police related to the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015 by Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, has been on hold pending the outcome of the appeal. Johnson sued Ferguson, former police Chief Tom Jackson and Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Brown.

The suit says Wilson assaulted Johnson and violated his constitutional rights, intentionally inflicting emotional pain. It said that Wilson's actions were part of a pattern and practice of misconduct by Ferguson police, and that the city and former Chief Tom Jackson negligently failed to supervise officers.

The suit was later moved to federal court, where lawyers for the police sought the dismissal of the case because, among other things, they said Wilson did not use "excessive force" against Johnson, that Jackson was not at the scene and that the city was immune from suits where there was no underlying Constitutional violation.

In March of 2016, U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig refused to dismiss the case.

In a 2-1 decision Tuesday, Judges Diana E. Murphy and Michael J. Melloy agreed, writing that the facts as alleged by Johnson's suit were sufficient to allow the case to proceed.

Judge Roger L. Wollman dissented, saying that he would have dismissed the case because the "seizure" of Johnson was not unconstitutional.

The suit has been on hold since March 2016 pending the outcome of the appeal.

A grand jury declined to indict Wilson for the shooting. A Justice Department investigation concluded likewise, and also said that some of Johnson's claims about the incident were not supported by other evidence. But a separate report said that Ferguson police violated civil rights by targeted African-Americans, stopping and searching people without reasonable suspicion and making arrests without probable cause.

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