Man who was beaten by undercover law enforcement may have his case heard before the Supreme Court
It’s been six years since James King was heinously attacked by two undercover officers in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he has still not received justice. At the time of the attack, a local police detective and an FBI agent were working as part of a task force, searching for a fugitive accused of stealing a box of empty cans and bottles of liquor from his former boss’ apartment. According to the Institute for Justice, King was misidentified by the two law enforcement agents, who beat him savagely and choked him until he was unconscious.
“The Fourth Amendment prevents the government from undertaking unreasonable searches and seizures,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “Here, at every step of the way, the officers were unreasonable in searching and seizing James, including when they beat him. We filed this lawsuit in 2016. It’s now 2020 and the government still hasn’t even filed an answer addressing all the claims that we’ve raised. Instead, they’ve spent the past four years filing different motions with courts, arguing under technicalities why they shouldn’t be held accountable rather than explaining why what they did actually wasn’t wrong.”
The Institute for Justice says the government and the courts are refusing to try the undercover agents. They cite a technicality called “qualified immunity,” described as “a special legal protection to Supreme Court created in the 1980s to protect government officials.”
According to videos from eyewitnesses and numerous news outlets, King was walking to his job when two men dressed in t-shirts and jeans approached him. The police detective and FBI agent reportedly did not identify who they were, pinning King and taking his wallet. Thinking he was being mugged, King tried to escape but was tackled, beaten and choked by the two undercover officers.
The Institute for Justice reports police charged King with serious felonies after the incident and that the Michigan county prosecuted him on those crimes. King refused to take a plea deal, leading to a jury acquitting him of all charges. After clearing his name, King filed a lawsuit against the officers for violating his rights and assaulting him without reason. In response to the lawsuit, the government claimed the officers were protected under qualified immunity.
In any investigation, it is important to remember that law enforcement officers do not have to abide by any promises that you will not face criminal charges. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, you can still say something to officers that may unknowingly incriminate you. Police have training to get information intended to arrest you. They are not on your side, so it is extremely vital that you retain an attorney who will work to protect your rights.
In King’s case, the undercover agents had no reason to assault him – he was not physically threatening nor was he a danger to the law enforcement officers’ lives. He had good reason to flee as the men who pinned him and took his wallet did not identify themselves as law enforcement agents. Even if they had, there was no probable cause for King’s interrogation.
If you are questions by the police, remember that you are not required to participate in the interview. In fact, something you say in an interview can convince authorities that you are guilty. It is advised that you immediately contact an attorney. Having an experienced defense attorney during a police interview is crucial as he or she can evaluate your specific circumstances and advise you in a manner that is in your best intentions. Meeting with authorities can be unnerving and often, your nerves can make you appear suspicious or cause you to forget that you have the right to remain silent.
The best way to defend yourself and your rights during a police investigation is to call a criminal defense lawyer immediately. If an investigation is actively infringing on your rights, an attorney may be able to petition the court to order law enforcement to stop the infringing conduct immediately.
If you are a victim of police brutality or believe you are under police investigation in Ohio, contact Joslyn Law Firm at (614)444-1900 immediately. As a victim of police brutality himself, Brian Joslyn will fight to protect your rights.