Did San Diego Sheriffs Use Excessive Force When They Killed a Suicidal Suspect?

On December 2, 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of CHELSEY HAYES V. COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Case #09-55644 , heard this civil rights Complaint brought under the Federal statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law wherein a minor daughter alleged violations of her 14th and 4th Amendment rights and her deceased father’s 4th Amendment rights when San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies acted negligently in shooting and killing her father who allegedly was suicidal and wielding a knife during a response to a domestic violence call.

 In the underlying case, the Court said there was no evidence the sheriff’s fired their guns for any other purpose than self-defense and, therefore affirmed the District Court’s Decision by declaring there was no violation of plaintiff’s rights under the 14th Amendment. On the other hand, the Court reversed the lower Court after it determined a jury could conclude the use of deadly force by the sheriffs was not objectively reasonable and that under California law supported a basis for a wrongful death claim.

A compelling argument was made on behalf of Hayes that the sheriffs could have avoided the incident by obtaining more information about the suspect or requesting a psychiatric emergency response team (“PERT”) when the first deputy responded to a domestic violence call at a neighbor’s house and learned there had been no physical altercation, and before the second deputy arrived and they both entered the home. At that point it became a matter of whether the officers used excessive force.

The above reported Decision can be found at the following link: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/12/02/09-55644.pdf

 

Husband arrested in 2004 Westminster killing (Sam Spital)

COMMENTARY BY SAMUEL SPITAL, CRIMINAL HOMICIDE AND DEFENSE LAWYER

“On February 4, 2013, the Orange County Registrar published a digital article in which a husband was arrested in connection with a cold case investigation for the death of his wife about nine years ago. According to the story, this was a brutal murder in which the wife had her throat slashed and her head was nearly decapitated. All of this happened in the early morning hours when the 17 year old son was tied up and placed in a his bedroom closet by another suspect. It was further revealed that the husband had previously pled guilty to spousal battery and attempting to dissuade a witness (the victim in the current criminal case), then being sentenced to one year in County Jail and formal probation for five years.

Either the author did not interview the investigating officers more thoroughly or the Police and District Attorney declined to provide any further details as to the underlying evidence that led them to arrest the defendant for the vicious killing after so many years had intervened. Defense counsel will undoubtedly perform a painstaking investigation given the substantial intervening period of time from the incident and the current filing of the criminal charges, as well as raise various pre-trial motions and to establish the defense strategy.

It is interesting to note the husband was not arrested after so many years even though the the spouse is generally considered the first and often the primary person of interest in a murder; when this nexus is coupled with the previous conviction for domestic violence along with the type of and manner of killing, there would seem to have been other circumstantial evidence as well to link the husband to the crime even if no eye witness, including but not limited to DNA. However, the spouse may have had an alibi, he may not have used the knife in question and/or his participation in the crime as a co-conspirator could not have previously been established beyond any reasonable doubt. If the defendant does not have the means to retain private counsel, a Deputy Public Defender will be appointed.”

–Sam Spital

San Diego crime rate hits 30-year low

The crime rate in San Diego County has fallen to its lowest number in 30 years, according to a new report from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). This reportedly places San Diego third on a list of safest large cities in the U.S., which is determined based on the number of violent and property crimes in the region.

According to SANDAG’s “Thirty Years of Crime” report, violent crimes (which include homicide, aggravated assault, rape and robbery) have steadily dropped since it peaked in 1992. This was the case despite a concurrent decrease in the ratio of officers to citizens. The authors of the report believe the reasons for this are two-fold. First, county officials have aggressively investigated and prosecuted gang activity in recent years. And second, recent state and local laws have significantly increased the jail time and other penalties for violent crimes.

However, there has reportedly been an increase in violent crimes in recent years. There were 82 homicides in 2011, which was a 22 percent increase from 2010. Although the majority of these crimes were reportedly motivated by domestic abuse, the number of reported domestic violence incidents in 2011 dropped by 6 percent from 2010 numbers, hitting its lowest number since the late 1980s. It is unclear whether the number of domestic violence-related homicides plays into the overall number of domestic partner incidents, though.

On the whole, property crimes such as theft and burglary made up the largest percentage of the crime that took place in San Diego last year.

 

California sheriff sentenced for domestic violence

The sheriff of a major California city will spend the next three years serving a probation sentence after pleading guilty to domestic abuse in connection with a recent altercation with his wife.

According to court documents, the alleged domestic violence incident took place on New Year’s Eve, when the sheriff of San Francisco forcefully grabbed his wife’s arm during a heated argument. Last month, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment under a plea deal that included the dismissal of three other criminal charges.

Following the guilty plea, the sheriff was sentenced to three years of probation. He must also complete 100 hours of community service and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling, and pay about $600 in fines and court fees. Under a current restraining order, he is not allowed to contact his wife until he begins his court-ordered counseling

The sheriff’s job future is also uncertain. The San Francisco mayor is reportedly assessing his options, which include suspending the sheriff for official misconduct. The sheriff says he has no plans to step down.

After his sentencing hearing, the sheriff gave a tearful statement to the waiting press, stating that the arrest and court process had been “a very public reminder that I’m not the person that I thought I was,” and admitting that he has already started counseling to deal with the issues that caused the incident.

“I deeply and humbly apologize for my behavior and the pain it caused to my wife and son. For what happened on December 31, there are no excuses,” he said. “I accept full responsibility.”