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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Geoff Henley Henley & Henley, P.C.
Dallas – After a federal judge dismissed their civil lawsuit, lawyers for the family of Tony Timpa stated they intended to appeal the decision.
In a 27-page ruling, Federal District Judge David Godbey stated that even if the officers violated Timpa’s constitutional rights, the suit was barred by qualified immunity.The judge stated that no specific decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals prohibited the officers from smothering Timpa for 14 minutes on August 10, 2016.
Judge Godbey specifically made no decision about whether the officers’ violated Timpa’s Fourth Amendment rights.
“This is exactly why qualified immunity must be abolished or at least modified,” the family’s lawyer said. “It allows officers to continue to use force that we all see and know to be excessive simply because there is no previous ruling prohibiting precisely the same kind of force. It’s squeezing a football through the eye of a needle.”
In ruling against the Timpas, the judge discounted cases within the Fifth Circuit and five other circuits where courts have ruled against officers who killed subjects with prone restraint. Even if there are “widespread” rulings against certain police conduct, that is still insufficient to overcome qualified immunity, the judge further stated.
“One of the more unnerving features of qualified immunity is that courts are free to disregard rulings against officers from other circuits,” Henley said. “There will be more unnecessary deaths unless there is real legal change.”
Henley said the family will appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit of Appeals based in New Orleans. “The family is understandably distraught, but they’re not done.”