§1983 Civil Rights Wrongful Death Suit – a Lawyer’s Case

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A federal civil rights suit for wrongful death under 42 U.S.C. §1983 was cleared for discovery and Court-facilitated mediation at Status Conference earlier this month. The case is Webb v. Stevens, No. 5:05-CV-33-BO(1) in the Eastern District of North Carolina, with Avery T. “Sandy” Waterman, Jr., Esq. as lead counsel.

Webb alleges multiple civil rights violations, including objectively unreasonable: (1) use of deadly force; (2) denial of first responding emergency medical attention; and (3) conspiracy to tamper with evidence and deny court access. Such implicates the Fourth,Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The defendant Caucasian North Carolina state trooper stopped an African-American motorist in rural North Carolina on Martin Luther King Day in 2003 for claimed seatbelt violation. After being placed under arrest and attempting to flee, the Virginia motorist was subdued, handcuffed improperly, and put in a running cruiser alone.

As the arrestee slowly backed the cruiser straight in reverse to leave, the trooper ran along side and repeatedly fired at point blank range through the driver’s window into the driver’s torso. The earliest EMT responders initially were not allowed by encircling officers to attend the victim, and another officer removed a telltale dangling handcuff from the victim’s wrist as he lay dying.

Defendant trooper was terminated by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol over the incident. His firing was upheld on appeal after a two-day evidentiary hearing.