Louisiana Deputies Pull the 'Qualified Immunity' Card Again After a Judge Previously Denied It

Screenshot:  ACLU Louisiana (YouTube)
Screenshot: ACLU Louisiana (YouTube)

Two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies, who forced a Black woman facedown on the ground three years ago, requested again for her lawsuit be dismissed. According to The Associated Press, they were previously rejected when a judge didn’t find “qualified immunity” as grounds to toss the case.

In 2020, Teliah Perkins was approached at her home by St. Tammy Parish Deputies Kyle Hart and Ryan Moring for riding her motorcycle without a helmet, per NOLA.com. Though the minor traffic offense was punishable by a $50 fine, the deputies tried to arrest her. The 30-minute police interaction resulted in Perkins being forced onto the ground facedown and pressed into the pavement while the sheriff’s deputies dug their knees into her back. Her 14-year-old son recorded the interaction and per the suit, the deputies shoved him and threatened to use a taser.

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Perkins admitted she resisted arrest during the interaction but she argued the use of force was unnecessary.

Woman Attacked by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputies

The panel of appellate judges who heard the case Wednesday picked apart Perkins’ claims, including the allegation that an officer choked her during the interaction, per AP. Judge Cory Wilson noted an officer had his hand on her neck at some point which the defense argued was only for a moment. Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod questioned whether her son being shoved and threatened by the officer was a constitutional violation given a Taser is a non-lethal weapon. The bulk of the claims in the suit are attributed to the footage of the incident, which Judge James Ho said was “hard to follow.”

U.S. District Judge Wendy Vitter previously denied tossing the case in July 2022 ruling there was enough evidence to support Perkins’ claims of excessive force. Now that decision may be reconsidered.

Read more from AP News:

Vitter had ruled there was evidence supporting Perkins’ claims that the officers used unnecessary force even after she’d been subdued and that her son was clearly not interfering with her arrest when Moring shoved him in the chest and threatened him with a Taser as the teen recorded. The evidence of constitutional rights being violated overcame the deputies’ claim that the suit should be thrown out under the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which protects police from lawsuits arising from the scope of their work.

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