Video Helps Officers Win Excessive Force Suit
While in prison, McCarthy filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, claiming that the three officers used excessive force. "He claimed they just beat the crap out of him," said Dembiczak. "They were punching him, kicking him and all this other stuff."
Dembiczak said hospital records for McCarthy did not contain any evidence of injuries consistent with being punched or kicked by the police officers. Dembiczak argued to the jury during a one-day trial this summer that all of the force used on McCarthy was reasonable, and that any escalation in force was justified by McCarthy's continued resistance to arrest.
"They did everything they could to get this guy in custody," said Dembiczak. "Pia even testified that at one point in time he was scared for his life. It was a dead-street in the middle of the night with no one around. If [McCarthy] had gotten this officer's gun it would've been all over."
McCarthy, who represented himself initially, testified that he ran from police but was not fighting with the officers. McCarthy later agreed to let a court-appointed lawyer represent him at the trial. Jim Nugent, of Nugent & Bryant in New Haven, said he took the case pro bono about four weeks before the start of trial.
The case went to trial for one day in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport before Judge Donald Walter from Louisiana, who was filling in on the Connecticut bench.
Both lawyers said the case ultimately came down to a video of the struggle between the officers and McCarthy that was caught by the cruiser's camera. Nugent said the footage sunk his client's case "like a torpedo."
"Just about 95 percent of the entire incident was caught on the police dash-cam which unfortunately refuted most of the plaintiff's testimony," said Nugent.
The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes before returning with a defense verdict. "I think the video was powerful with the jury," said Dembiczak. "It paints a picture of what was going on. You see the desperation with which [McCarthy] is trying to get away from these police officers."
At the trial, Dembiczak noted that McCarthy had completed his jail sentence and was living at a halfway house.•