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Tenth Circuit Affirms JMOL in Racial Profiling Case

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on two claims in a racial profiling case this week, finding that the plaintiff had not offered evidence to support his claims.

In 2008, Edward Henry filed a civil rights action against two Albuquerque police officers, Jacob Storey and Amy Fangio, after the officers mistakenly stopped and handcuffed Henry for driving a stolen vehicle. Henry, who is African-American, was driving a rental car at the time. The officers released Henry when they realized that the vehicle has been erroneously reported as stolen.

In his complaint, Henry alleged that he was singled out because of his race, and that the officers used excessive force, including handcuffs that were too tight, rude language, and weapons aimed at him.

At trial, the defendants offered no evidence and moved for a JMOL. The district court partially granted the motion, finding that Henry failed to produce evidence that Officer Storey used excessive force or Officer Fangio engaged in racial profiling.

The case went to the jury on the racial profiling claim against Officer Storey and the excessive force claim against Officer Fangio, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the officers on the remaining claims.

Henry challenged the district court's grant of JMOL in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court, however, agreed with the district court that JMOL was appropriate.

Henry's excessive force claim against Officer Storey relied on a single factual premise: that Officer Storey aimed a firearm at him. Court records, however, indicate that Henry didn't know whether Storey was pointing a gun at him; his testimony established only that he saw six guns aimed at him, which was legally insufficient to prove that Storey pointed a weapon.

The court further noted that even if Henry could prove that Storey pointed a gun at him, it would not support an excessive force claim under the circumstances.

The Tenth Circuit also affirmed JMOL in the racial profiling case against Officer Fangio because Henry did not produce evidence that Fangio was involved in the alleged racial profiling. Though Henry claimed that Officer Storey ran his license plates solely because of his race, he did not offer evidence that Fangio was involved in the decision to run the plates.

Do you agree with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that JMOL was appropriate, or do you think the jury should have considered all of Henry's racial profiling case claims?

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