The city of Mason and two police officers have asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal judge’s ruling denying them immunity in a civil lawsuit filed by the family of an unarmed, mentally ill Mason man who died after a confrontation with police.
Gary F. Becker, a Cincinnati attorney representing Mason and both officers, filed an appeal Thursday arguing the court should overturn Judge S. Arthur Spiegel’s March 22 decision to deny qualified and sovereign immunity to the city and officers.
Qualified immunity shields public officials from legal liability unless they knowingly violated a person’s clearly established legal or constitutional rights. Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that makes it difficult for private citizens to sue the government.
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The case centers on Douglas Boucher, who died on Dec. 13, 2009 after two Mason police officers Tased him seven times, kicked and repeatedly struck him with a baton — all mostly after he had fallen face-first onto cement and stopped moving.
The suit alleges Mason Police Officers Daniel Fry and Sean McCormick unreasonably seized and used excessive force on Boucher, 39, and that the city of Mason failed to adequately train and supervise officers’ use of Tasers or conduct a meaningful investigation of the incident.
Neither officer was disciplined, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation cleared both of wrongdoing.
The suit demands a jury trial and seeks compensatory damages and legal costs. It also asks for punitive damages against the officers, not the city.
“Qualified immunity is specifically designed to protect the officers not only from liability, but from the prospect of having to go through the rigors of a trial,” said Becker. “The city has elected to avail themselves of that right to appeal that decision now.”
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