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Trial over Police Brutality Allowed After 24 Years: Fails When Plaintiff Doesn’t Show Up
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In a decision released last week, State Court of Claims Judge Christopher McCarthy of New York dismissed the trial over New York police brutality, as the plaintiff failed to show up after pursuing the matter for the last 24 years. The judge held that Arnold Chapman’s unexplained failure to attend the trial on 23rd July constituted a failure to prosecute the claim.

Curiously, Chapman had been pursuing his rights to a trial for over the last 24 years. This date was for assessing the damages.

The alleged case of police brutality happened in 1988. Chapman sued the state for damages resulting from alleged injuries and from a six-hour “deprivation of liberty” in 1989. His lawsuit was dismissed for being time-barred.


However, Chapman continued to pursue his cause, and in 2000, in an extraordinary act, the state legislature passed a bill reinstating his case. Then Governor George Pataki signed the bill into law. A memo accompanying the bill reinstating Chapman’s claims included a few details of his case.

Consequently, the state challenged the bill as unconstitutional, but in 2002, Court of Claims Presiding Judge Richard Sise ruled that his court had no jurisdiction to question the constitutionality of the legislation “unless violations are plain and patent on the face of the statue.”

Chapman, 65, had pleaded that while he was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for speeding in 1988, two troopers had kicked him, beat him with a baton and a gun, and did so even as he complied with their orders. Chapman was arrested and detained for six hours.

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In 2005, the court found that Chapman’s version of the events was more credible than that of the two officers who claimed that Chapman had lunged at one of them. Judge Sise wrote, “It is … difficult to imagine someone in (Chapman’s) position — someone who is sober, who knows enough of law enforcement to ‘assume the position,’ and who has committed no crime — being so foolish as to accost an armed officer and grab him, with both hands, on the side away from the gun.”

After a number of court hearings, ultimately, the court scheduled a trial for July 23 to assess damages. Mysteriously, (or maybe getting frustrated is no mystery) Chapman did not turn up at the trial. The system lost no time in ending the trial though it had taken Chapman 24 years to travel to this point. Case dismissed.


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