Officer who allegedly killed Perkins seeks civil suit dismissal, calls allegations unfair

Mar. 27—Attorneys for Mac Marquette, the former Decatur police officer accused of shooting and killing Steve Perkins, on Friday sought to dismiss a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit filed by Perkins' widow and daughter.

The court ordered the plaintiffs to respond by April 12.

"These allegations are obviously incomplete and unfairly drafted against Officer Marquette," reads Marquette's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Marquette is represented by Huntsville lawyer Robert Tuten and Knoxville lawyer Jeff Thompson. In weighing whether to dismiss a lawsuit, courts are obligated to accept the facts alleged in a complaint as true. Tuten and Thompson point to the plaintiffs' claim that Marquette identified himself as a police officer and ordered Perkins to the ground.

"The complaint contains no allegations that Mr. Perkins complied with Officer Marquette's order, nor does the complaint allege that Mr. Perkins even attempted to comply with this order," Tuten and Thompson argue in their motion to dismiss.

According to the original complaint filed on Dec. 13 by Huntsville attorney Douglas Fees on behalf of Steve Perkins' daughter, identified as A.P., and widow Catrela Perkins, Marquette gave Steve Perkins "no time to respond to his verbal commands."

While Fees filed the complaint as local counsel for the plaintiffs, the lawsuit is primarily being handled by out-of-state attorneys Cannon Lambert and Lee Merritt, according to a representative from Fees' firm.

Marquette's attorneys argue that he is entitled to state-agent and peace-officer immunity, which shields officers from liability for their discretionary actions in the performance of law enforcement duties. If an officer successfully claims immunity, according to the motion, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to show that the officer acted "willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her authority."

The plaintiffs allege Marquette was "negligent, careless and unskillful," according to the motion to dismiss, which argues that this categorization is not enough to remove immunity.

"In accompanying Defendant Combs and Brady to the decedent's home to repossess (Steve Perkins') vehicle, Officer Marquette was obviously performing law enforcement duties and exercising judgment or discretion," the motion reads.

42 U.S. Code Section 1983 states that anyone who subjects "any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action."

The complaint alleges civil rights violations under Section 1983 against Marquette, the city of Decatur, officer or former officers Christopher Mukkadam, Joey Williams, Vance Summers, and repo agents Caleb Combs and Richie Brady, and points to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people "to be secure in their persons, houses ... against unreasonable searches and seizures."

The 14th Amendment read says that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without the due process of law."

Tuten and Thompson argue that the plaintiffs can't prove Marquette violated a constitutional right.

"There are obvious holes in Plaintiffs' two-paragraph recitation of the encounter," the motion reads. "The Plaintiffs' complaint is so one-sided as to be purely conclusory rather than factual."

Lee Merritt, when he announced the suit in December, called it a "skeleton lawsuit that stakes a basic claim," and said it was filed in part to initiate discovery.

As for the wrongful death claim, Marquette's lawyers argue that only a representative of a decedent's estate — in this case, Catrela Perkins — can bring such a claim in Alabama.

"Yet, it appears from the wording of the complaint that both Plaintiff Catrela (Perkins), in her individual capacity, and A.P. have brought claims for damages based on the allegedly wrongful death of their decedent," the motion reads. "Because neither Plaintiff Catrela Perkins, in her individual capacity, nor Minor Plaintiff A.P. may bring a wrongful death action in Alabama, these purported claims must be dismissed."

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the city of Decatur, filed March 4, makes a similar argument for why the wrongful death claim should be dismissed. Further, it claims the city is "entitled to the same immunity as their officers."

Defendants Allstar Recovery, Caleb Combs and Richie Brady also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on March 4. They argue that the plaintiffs' complaint is insufficient in alleging deprivation of constitutional rights based on a conspiracy between the tow truck drivers and police.

"Combs and Brady are private citizens, not law enforcement," the motion reads. "As such, to assert a claim against them based on Section 1983 requires that they, as private citizens, acted under the color of state law."

Court records show the plaintiffs' response to Allstar Recovery, Combs and Brady was due on Tuesday. Allstar Recovery, Combs and Brady can file a reply brief, if they wish, one week later.

The plaintiffs' response to the city's motion to dismiss is due by April 2; the city then has until April 9 to file a reply brief.

Mukkadam, Williams and Summers sought to dismiss the suit in a motion filed on Feb. 29. It argues that the defendants were not in a position to intervene in the shooting and that "there is little question that the non-shooting officers' actions here were taken pursuant to their law enforcement authority and in performance of those duties."

On March 15, the plaintiffs responded to the non-shooting officers' motion.

"Plaintiffs have pleaded facts which indicate that Defendants were in a position to prevent Defendant Marquette's unconstitutional conduct," the plaintiffs' response brief reads.

Further, the response argues that the non-shooting officers were a "proximate cause" of Perkins' death: "Plaintiffs allege that the movant Defendants failed to announce their office when they arrived at (Perkins') home and failed to de-escalate their encounter with (Perkins)."

Finally, the plaintiffs argue that the non-shooting officers are not entitled to state immunity.

"Although Plaintiffs did not use the word 'maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her authority,' Plaintiffs did convey that the movant Defendants acted 'intentionally and willfully.'" or 256-340-2438. @DD_DavidGambino