A lawsuit over the death of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle police officers in 2017 may resume after an appeal court opinion released Tuesday reversed a judge’s previous decision to dismiss the lawsuit’s negligence claims.
In the opinion, an appellate panel of three judges also overturned Judge Julie Spector of the King County Superior Court in January 2019, according to which statements from three experts – two law enforcement officers and a forensic psychologist – from lawyers representing Lyles’ estate, were excluded. and said there were real issues that were best left to a jury to decide.
The civil lawsuit, filed on behalf of Lyles’ children, was returned to a higher court for further trial following Tuesday’s appeal decision.
Two Seattle police officers responded to Lyles’ apartment in northeast Seattle on June 18, 2017 after Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four, called 911 to report a break-in. According to the officials, she suddenly attacked her with a knife or two and they fatally shot her in the narrow spaces of her kitchen.
Lyles’ death sparked protests and outrage, including allegations that the shooting followed a pattern of institutionalized racist bias by the police. Lyles was black and both officers are white.
In the 18 months leading up to her death, Lyles – a domestic violence victim with documented mental health problems – called the Seattle police 23 times, and police said she threatened officers with scissors during a June 5, 2017 trouble-shooting call before moving it was dropped, the Seattle Times previously reported.
John Schochet, a spokesman for the Seattle prosecutor who represents the Seattle Police Department, said Tuesday he could not speak about pending litigation.
Seattle Police Department attorneys Jason Anderson and Steven McNew quarreld that claims of negligence filed by Lyles’ estate should be dismissed, as Washington law provides a “full defense” in claims for damages for personal injury or death if the injured or killed person was at the time committed a crime; and that the crime was a proximate Cause of injury or death.
But attorneys representing Lyles ‘estate denied the officers’ request for dismissal, giving statements from three experts: One force expert believed that Anderson and McNew’s use of firearms was inappropriate and against Seattle’s de-escalation policy Police Department violated. The second use of violence expert said Lyles’ death could have been prevented if Anderson had worn his department-issued taser and used it to subdue Lyles, according to the appeals court.
The on-site forensic psychologist, who based his opinion on a “forensic autopsy” of Lyles’ mental health records, said she was in a psychotic state and could not have any intention of attacking the officers, the statement said.
The property appealed Spector’s orders to keep the three experts from giving evidence.
“The admissibility of the experts’ statements is a central issue in this appeal,” said the acting Chief Justice Beth Andrus from Division One of the Court of Appeal. Judges David Mann and James Verellen agreed.
In his lawsuit, Lyles’ estate argued that officials failed to act sensibly because they did not use lethal force to disarm or subdue them.
Anderson, who was certified to use a taser and required to wear it under SPD policy, received a two-day ban for failing to do so on the day Lyles was killed.
Seattle police eventually determined that the officers acted sensibly in the shooting at Lyles and that given the limited space, a taser application likely could not have subdued theme and the fact that she was wearing a bulky jacket, the Seattle Times previously reported.
“Here it is a question for the trier of facts whether the use of deadly force violates a duty of care. The officers could ultimately convince a jury that lethal force was the only viable option, ”the appeal court said.
Regarding the argument that officers have immunity because Lyles had committed a crime at the time, the three-judge panel said it was inappropriate for the lower court to dismiss the Lyles estate’s claims for summary judgment.
To benefit from full immunity, officers must demonstrate that Lyles is specifically designed to cause either gross assault or death – and the three-judge panel disagreed with officers’ claims that they did not have the specific intent need to prove that they have committed a crime. in Tuesday’s opinion.
“A person’s decreased ability due to mental illness can affect their ability to develop a specific intention to commit a crime,” the statement said, citing case law.
While Lyles’ estate may bear the burden of proving that she suffers from a mental illness that affects her ability to intentionally commit a crime, officials must prove that Lyles was killed in the commission of a crime, the judges found.
“The evidence of Lyles’ mental health on the day of her death raises a real question of material fact whether she was able to form the necessary intent to commit a crime or attempted murder, and the court did in grant of a summary judgment made a mistake on this issue, ”the statement said.