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FORD v. CHILDERS

December 22, 1986

LARRY FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID CHILDERS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER WITH THE TAYLORVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT; ROGER JONES, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE TAYLORVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT; AND CITY OF TAYLORVILLE, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, District Judge:

OPINION ORDER

Ford robbed a bank.

He was shot while fleeing from the scene.

Can he now sue the officer who shot him for violating his civil rights?

Of course not!

Larry Ford brought this lawsuit — under the pretext of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 — alleging a deprivation of his rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Specifically, he claimed that Police Officer David Childers utilized excessive and unreasonable force by shooting him in the back, and thus averting his flight from the scene of an armed bank robbery — a crime to which Ford pled guilty and was sentenced to 7 years. Plaintiff further maintained the City of Taylorville and its Police Chief, Roger Jones, failed to properly train and supervise the officer, thereby denying the felon constitutional guarantees.

At the close of the Plaintiff's case-in-chief, Defendants moved for a directed verdict pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). They maintained Officer Childers had complied not only with the Illinois deadly force statute, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶ 7-5 (1985), but also with the constitutional guidelines for the use of such force set out in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 105 S.Ct. 1694, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985). Following oral argument outside the presence of the jury, the Court allowed the motion and discharged the jury as the trier of fact.

Plaintiff now moves for a new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59, asserting the directed verdict was improperly entered.

Directed Verdict Standard

In ruling upon a motion for a directed verdict, the Court must determine whether "reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Unquestionably, the Court must view the facts and all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Mathews v. Fairman, 779 F.2d 409, 415 (7th Cir. 1985). Nevertheless, the rule is also well established that the party opposing the motion must produce more than a scintilla of proof to support his claim. Id. Thus, the "preliminary question for the judge [is] not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511, quoting Improvement Co. v. Munson, 14 Wall. 442, 448, 81 U.S. 442, 448, 20 L.Ed. 867 (1872). In other words, the inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id., 106 S.Ct. at 2512.

Applying this standard, the Court finds the following.

Facts

On January 13, 1984, at approximately 7:00 p.m. Officer Childers responded to a radio dispatch reporting a robbery in progress at the First National Bank of Taylorville. Upon arriving at the scene and parking his squad car in a parking lot directly east of the bank, the officer proceeded to a side window where he observed the suspect in a stocking mask threatening the institution's employees. Although Childers testified that he could not clearly see that Ford held a gun in his outstretched arm ...


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