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2015 Youth Law Fair Day Fact Pattern
Profiling: That's Not Me! What's the Problem?

Property of the D.C. Bar

Xavier Jackson, age 18, is a senior atObama High School. He is a straight A honor student, maintaining an after-school job to earn extra money for college. He has been accepted on a full scholarship to Princeton University. He is a volunteer tutor at his former middle school to help the students because he has not always been on the straight and narrow path. Back when he was in middle school, he got involved with drug dealing for the neighborhood gang. He even got arrested on a gun possession charge but because it was his first offense, he was sentenced to probation and community service. Prior to his arrest, one of his friends got shot and killed. He knew that he did not want the same end to his life, so during his probation he decided to turn his life around.

Xavier lives with his parents, his younger brother and sister in an area of the District known as Marvin Gardens that has gone through a lot of transition within the last few years. Although there has been a lot of new home ownership, there has been a rash of armed carjacking's and armed robberies in the neighborhood.

Officer Mary Johnson is a member of the Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) and has been with the squad for three years after spending five years as a patrol officer. The purpose of the CRU is to concentrate law enforcement resources in neighborhoods that have seen a significant increase in criminal activity.

Because of the recent spike in major crimes in the Marvin Gardens neighborhood, the CRU decided to target this area for investigation. On the day they targeted the area, four CRU members in an unmarked police vehicle pulled up to a corner a couple of blocks away from Xavier's street, where a group of young African-American men were hanging out. CRU had been conducting an investigation of Dante Towns, the young man that they believed was the ring leader of the gang behind the rash of armed carjacking's and robberies. Dante is similar in height, complexion and build as Xavier. After much investigation, the police had been able to obtain a warrant from a Superior Court judge for the arrest of Dante.

At 4:30 p.m., CRU members led by Officer Johnson jumped out of their van and surprised the group of young men. Officer Johnson immediately spotted Dante who was wearing a blue hoodie. Dante, realizing that he was about to be arrested turned and ran away. Although Officer Johnson gave chase, Dante soon ran out of the officer's sight. Officer Johnson, then pulled out her radio and called for other officers "to be on the lookout for a young black male, 5'10 inches tall, close cut, medium complexion, heavy build, wearing a blue hoodie. He is a suspected armed robber so be cautious."

Unfortunately, that was a close description of Xavier.Xavier is 5'8 inches tall, wears a close cut, medium complexion, slender build and he was wearing a purple hoodie that day. Xavier was in the immediate area of the chase because he was running late from his after-school tutoring session and he needed to get home quickly to change into his work uniform.

After he left the Metro, because he was late, he began running in the same direction that Dante was running. Dante pushed Xavier out of the way and almost knocked him down. Dante then ran into a nearby house. At that moment, Officer Clifford Jones came around the corner and saw Xavier, who had started to run again and was almost to his house. Because Xavier closely matched the description that he heard on the radio, Officer Jones told him to freeze and stop running.

Xavier stopped and Officer Jones caught up to him and yelled "You are under arrest." Officer Jones then took out his handcuffs and attempted to put them on Xavier. Xavier, knowing that he had done nothing wrong yelled, "I didn't do anything wrong; you have no right to arrest me!" Officer Jones then told Xavier to "shut up" he then smiled and said, "It looks like you will be going to jail for a long time."

When Officer Jones said that Xavier grew pale, all that he had worked for during high school was about to slip away and he panicked. He figured that because he had done nothing wrong and that because this was a false arrest, he was within his rights to try to break away from the officer. With all his energy he pulled away from the officer and began to run. He immediately ran towards four officers who had come to the scene. One of the officers, Officer Kendra Smith believing that Xavier was charging her, hit Xavier in the shoulder with her retractable metal stick (ASP) that all officers carry for their safety and knocked Xavier to the ground. Xavier hit his head on the sidewalk and was knocked out cold. The officers placed Xavier in handcuffs and then called for the ambulance.

Officer Johnson finally arrived on the scene and realized that Xavier was not the young man who was wanted for armed robbery. The officers removed the handcuffs and Xavier was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was required to stay in the hospital for three days because of serious head trauma. No charges were ever filed against Xavier.

Xavier has brought a civil lawsuit seeking money damages against Officer Jones for false arrest and against Officer Smith for her alleged use of excessive force.

Witnesses

Xavier Jackson
Officer Mary Johnson
Officer Clifford Jones
Officer Kendra Smith

Jury instructions to be read by court (perhaps at beginning of trial)

False Arrest

An arrest is subject to the Fourth Amendment constitutional requirement that it not be "unreasonable" under the circumstances. The decision to arrest is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe under the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge that an individual had committed an offense.

The existence of probable cause is a common sense determination, which turns on the practical considerations of everyday life. While each fact standing alone may be insufficient, the combination of all of the facts can establish probable cause and certain conduct that may appear innocent to a lay person may have entirely different significance to an experienced law enforcement officer.

Thus, if you find that Officer Clifford Jones had probable cause to believe that Plaintiff Xavier Jackson had committed a crime then you must find for the defendant as to Plaintiff's claim that he was falsely arrested.

Excessive Force Claim

Xavier Jackson claims that Officer Kendra Smith used excessive force in the course of the arrest of Mr. Jackson and that this use of force violated the victim's civil rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. All claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force, in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop or other seizure of a free citizen are analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its reasonableness standard. The right to make an arrest or investigatory stop carries with it the right to use some degree of physical force to carry it out.

The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than from the 20/20 vision of hindsight. In determining whether an officer acted reasonably or unreasonably you must make allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

The reasonableness inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one. The relevant inquiry is whether the officer's actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting him, without regard to his underlying intent or motivation. Thus, for Plaintiff Xavier Jackson to prove his excessive force claim, you must find that he has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Officer Smith used unreasonable force in the circumstances of this case. If Plaintiff Jackson has not convinced you that Officer Smith used unreasonable force, then you must return a verdict in favor of Officer Smith.

WITNESS SCRIPT: OFFICER MARY JOHNSON

1. My name is Mary Johnson and I am a police officer with the DC Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD").I have been with the Crime Reduction Unit for 3 years. Before that I was a patrol officer for 5 years.

2. The purpose of CRU is to remove guns from crime plagued areas of the city.

3. Because of the recent spike in gun activity in the Marvin Gardens neighborhood, including the rash of armed carjacking's and robberies, the CRU decided to target that neighborhood for investigation.

4. Before the target day, MPD had been conducting an investigation of Dante Towns, a young man who we believed was the ring leader of the gang behind the increased gun activity in Marvin Gardens. The Unit had obtained a warrant from a DC Superior Court Judge for the arrest of Dante.

5. I lead my Unit on the target day. We pulled up to a corner in the Marvin Gardens neighborhood where a group of young African-American men were hanging out. At 4:30 pm, when we jumped out of our van and I immediately spotted Dante.Dante was wearing a blue hoodie.

6. After we jumped out of the van, Dante started to run away. I chased him but he quickly ran out of my sight.I then stopped and pulled out my radio and called for other officers to be on the lookout for a young black male 5'10 inches tall, close cut, medium complexion, heavy build, wearing a blue hoodie. I told the other officers that he is a suspected armed robber and to be cautious.

7. By the time I arrived to the location where Officers Clifford Jones and Kendra Smith were holding the suspect, I realized that the young man, who I later learned to be Xavier Jackson, was not Dante Towns. I had the officers remove Mr. Jackson's handcuffs, called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital to treat his injuries.

WITNESS SCRIPT: OFFICER KENDRA SMITH

1. My name is Kendra Smith and I am a police officer with the DC Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD").

2. I patrol the Marvin Gardens neighborhood and am aware of the recent spike in armed carjacking's and robberies.

3. I heard a radio call from Officer Mary Johnson, who I know is a member of the Crime Reduction Unit, to be on the lookout for a young black male 5'10 inches tall, close cut, medium complexion, heavy build, wearing a blue hoodie. Officer Johnson also radioed that he is a suspected armed robber and to be cautious.

4. I was on a residential street a couple of blocks away from the Metro station at the time of the call. I stopped my vehicle and got out when I saw that Officer Clifford Jones had apprehended a suspect. I was standing with three other officers when I heard the young man, who I learned later was named Xavier Jackson, yell at Officer Jones.

5. I then saw Mr. Jackson pull away from Officer Jones and he began to run directly towards me. I believed that Mr. Jackson was charging me. I then pulled out my retractable metal stick that all officers carry for our safety. I hit Mr. Jackson in the shoulder and he fell to the ground. We then put Mr. Jackson in handcuffs.

6. By the time Officer Mary Johnson arrived to the location where Officer Jones, myself and the other officers on the scene were holding Mr. Jackson, Officer Johnson told us that the young man was not the suspect she was looking for. We then removed Mr. Jackson's handcuffs, called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital to treat his injuries.

WITNESS SCRIPT: OFFICER CLIFFORD JONES

1. My name is Officer Clifford Jones and I am a police officer with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD").

2. On the day in question while I was patrolling in the Marvin Gardens neighborhood I heard a lookout on my radio for to be on the lookout for a young black male, 5'10 inches tall, close cut, medium complexion, heavy build, wearing a blue hoodie. He is a suspected armed robber so be cautious."

3. I got out of my patrol car and saw a black male running towards me who closely matched the description that I heard on the radio. I told the suspect to freeze and stop running. He did stop running and I told him that he was under arrest.

4. The suspect yelled at me, "I didn't do anything wrong;you have no right to arrest me!"

5. As I tried to put handcuffs on the suspect he broke free of me and began to run.

6. He immediately ran towards four officers who had come to the scene.

XAVIER JACKSON SCRIPT

1. My name is Xavier Jackson.I am 18 and a senior atObama High School. I am a straight A honor student and hold down an afterschool job to earn extra money for college. I have been accepted on a full scholarship to Princeton University. I am a volunteer tutor at my former middle school.

2. I live with my parents and my younger brother and sister in an area of the Marvin Gardens neighborhood. It is a great neighborhood that's on the rise but there had been a rash of armed carjacking's and armed robberies in the neighborhood.

3. I am 5'8 inches tall, wear a close cut, have a medium complexion, with a slender build and on the day of the incident I was wearing a purple hoodie. At the time of the incident I was running late from my afterschool tutoring session and I needed to get home quickly to change into my work uniform.

4. I left the Metro and because I was late, I began running towards home. As I was running someone pushed me out of the way and almost knocked me down. That person ran into a nearby house.

5. Before I got home, I saw a police officer behind me who yelled "freeze, stop running."

6. I stopped and the officer caught up to me and yelled "You are under arrest."The officer then took out his handcuffs and attempted to put them on me.

7. I knew that I had done nothing wrong and so I yelled "I didn't do anything wrong;you have no right to arrest me!" The officer said "shut up" he then smiled and said, "It looks like you will be going to jail for a long time."

8. I then became very scared. I figured that because I had done nothing wrong and that because this was a false arrest, I was within his rights to try to break away from the officer. With all my energy I pulled away from the officer and began to run. I immediately ran towards four officers who had come to the scene. One of the officers, hit me in the shoulder with her retractable metal stick and knocked me to the ground. I hit my head on the sidewalk and was knocked out cold.

9. The next thing that I remember was waking up in the hospital with a terrible headache that lasted for a week. I was required to stay in the hospital for three days because of serious head trauma. No charges were ever filed against me.

10. I think it was wrong for the one officer to arrest me and for the other officer to hit me with that metal stick.

2015 Youth Law Fair Day Witness Prompt Questions

Officer Mary Johnson

  • Why did you decide to join the Crime Reduction Unit ("CRU")?
  • Why did the CRU decide to target Marvin Gardens?
  • Who were you targeting in your investigation of the recent increase in gun activity in Marvin Gardens?

Officer Clifford Jones

  • Why did you attempt to arrest Xavier Jackson?
  • What did you say to Mr. Jackson when you were trying to handcuff him?
  • Did Mr. Jackson exactly match the description of the armed suspect?

Xavier Jackson

  • Why did you decide to turn your life around after middle school?
  • Did you know about the increase in armed carjacking's and armed robberies in your neighborhood?
  • What made you try to break away from the police officer when he was trying to arrest you?

Officer Kendra Smith

  • Why were you on the scene?
  • What movement did Mr. Jackson make towards you?
  • Why did you hit Mr. Jackson with a retractable metal stick?