Parents Of Tased Teen Seek New Trial, Claiming Verdict Was ‘Miscarriage Of Justice’
The parents of a Maryville, Missouri, teenager with autism have asked for a new trial after a jury declined to find the police officers who tased him liable for damages.
In a motion filed Friday, Ernest and Ella Kramer say the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence, “resulting in a miscarriage of justice.”
The motion states that the officers had no reasonable suspicion to stop then-18-year-old Christopher Kramer in the first place and that his detention was unconstitutional.
The Kramers declined to comment, as did their attorney, Kansas City lawyer Arthur Benson.
The incident unfolded in 2014 when Kramer stopped to tie his shoe on what turned out to be the front lawn of a Missouri state trooper named Jim Farmer. The trooper called police to report someone suspicious approaching the front of his house, leading to Kramer’s eventual detention and beating.
“The dispatcher merely conveyed that an individual had approached Farmer’s door which, the Court observed, is not a crime,” the Kramers’ motion states.
Although it rarely happens, judges have discretion to overturn jury verdicts they deem to be against the weight of the evidence.
“The case of Chris Kramer is just such an exceptionally rare case,” the Kramers' motion states.
The Kramers sued the city of Maryville and the police involved in the incident in 2017, seeking $2 million in damages for wrongful detention and excessive use of force. Last month, a federal jury – four men and three women – found in favor of the defendants.
One of the jurors subsequently told KCUR that the jury never seriously considered holding the officers liable because the jurors believed they acted on the best information they had.
The juror, Brian Rhoades, said that jurors concluded the police had probable cause to detain Kramer because a fellow police officer had called in the report and because Kramer fled upon seeing the police.
“We felt that at that given moment, all they knew was that something happened at another police officer's house,” Rhoades said. “They found the person matched the description and he saw the police officers and ran. So that's where we felt that … there was a reasonable suspicion that they could detain him.”
The case implicated Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues and whether, if police had no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to begin with, they could nonetheless detain Kramer because he fled when they called out to him.
After Farmer, the state trooper, called in his report, a dispatcher broadcast a description of the teen, whom police discovered walking down a street a short while later. When he saw them, he took off running. Police eventually tackled Kramer, who resisted being subdued while crying out that he wanted to go home.
Other police officers had been named as defendants but were dismissed from the case because they had merely come to the aid of their fellow police officers after Kramer resisted arrest.
Rhoades, the juror, said the jury had been willing to consider holding the city liable for poor training of its police officers. But in instructing jurors before they retired to deliberate, the judge told the jurors, without explaining why, that the city was no longer part of the case.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.