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Williams v. Fredericks

January 4, 2006

MARY WILLIAMS, LINDA MURPHY, LINDA MURPHY AS NATURAL PARENT AND GUARDIAN OF NASARA MURPHY, A LEGAL INFANT, LINDA MURPHY AS NATURAL PARENT AND GUARDIAN OF MICHAEL MURPHY, A LEGAL INFANT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROBERT FREDERICKS, SGT. DANIEL DIAMOND, EDWARD RITZ AND MATTHEW HOY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS SCHENECTADY CITY POLICE OFFICERS; AND RAYMOND HOY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A SCHENECTADY COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFF, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, D.J.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Linda Murphy, Mary Williams, Nasara Murphy, and Michael Murphy brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, claiming that defendants, Schenectady City Police Officers Robert Fredericks, Daniel Diamond, and Edward Ritz and Matthew Hoy ("City Officers"), as well as Schenectady County Deputy Sheriff Raymond Hoy, violated their civil rights during a police search of their residence on February 18, 2000. After a four-day trial, the jury found for defendants. Presently before the Court are motions for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or, alternatively, for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by plaintiffs Mary Williams, Nasara Murphy and Michael Murphy.*fn1 Defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion.

II. FACTS

This case arose from a police search of plaintiffs' two-family residence on February 18, 2000, in Schenectady, New York. At trial, plaintiff Mary Williams claimed defendants illegally searched her home, illegally detained her, and used excessive force against her. Nasara and Michael Murphy claimed at trial that defendants illegally detained them and used excessive force against them.

At trial, defendants argued that they did not intentionally harm plaintiffs or deprive them of any rights. Defendants claimed that plaintiff Mary Williams voluntarily consented to a search of her apartment, that they had probable cause to believe that an armed suspect had entered the residence, and that a dangerous situation existed.

Officer Edward Ritz testified at trial that he and law enforcement officers were outside a building at 325 Paige Street, when he heard a noise inside the house and windows breaking. Officer Ritz stated that he observed Robert Evans lean out of a window. There came a point when approximately six individuals ran out of the house. Officer Ritz testified that he began to chase Evans and another person across a park and toward plaintiffs' residence. Defendant Officer Ritz spotted a black handgun in Evans' hand during the chase. Ritz testified that he did not lose sight of Evans or the other person until they went into the rear door of plaintiffs' residence.

Ritz apprised Sergeant Daniel Diamond, who was at the scene with Officer Robert Fredericks, of what had occurred. Convinced that Evans, whom Ritz had chased and seen carrying a handgun, was in the house, Diamond went to the back door of the residence with Fredericks. Diamond testified that he explained to Linda Murphy, who lived in the residence, that they were looking for Evans. According to Diamond, Murphy agreed that someone could have entered the rear of the house or basement and consented to a search of the apartment.

Diamond testified that after searching all but one room, Murphy withdrew her consent. At that point, Diamond stated, he believed Evans was in the room he had not searched.

Meanwhile, outside the front of the residence, Officer Matthew Hoy, whom Ritz had told he had seen two people enter the residence, one with a gun, saw a young female, Nasara Murphy, exit the residence. Officer Matthew Hoy testified that he could not determine whether Nasara

Murphy had a gun at the time and that he yelled to her to "get down". Officer Matthew Hoy stated that he had his gun drawn at that time. Officer Matthew Hoy went to the front porch where Nasara Murphy was lying face down. Officer Matthew Hoy testified that he holstered his gun, handcuffed Nasara Murphy, patted her down for weapons and placed her in a patrol car with the car running. Officer Matthew Hoy testified that he was operating on the assumption that there was a gunman in the house, and that he tried to prevent Nasara Murphy from being caught in a cross-fire.

Deputy Raymond Hoy testified that he had learned of the situation by monitoring transmissions on his radio and went to the scene. Mary Williams also came out onto the porch and was handcuffed and ordered to the ground. Deputy Raymond Hoy testified that he was on the front porch when Michael Murphy, a young male, came out of the residence onto the porch. Deputy Raymond Hoy stated that he had his shot gun in "high ready" position and that Michael Murphy was handcuffed and ordered to the ground. Upon learning from the officers inside that the apartment was secure, Mary Williams was unhandcuffed.

Matthew Hoy stated that he returned to the porch after placing Nasara Murphy in the patrol car and saw another female (Mary Williams) standing to the right of the doorway to the second floor. Officer Matthew Hoy testified that she was not handcuffed and that Deputy Raymond Hoy's shotgun was pointed up. Officer Matthew Hoy asked Mary Williams for consent to search her upstairs apartment. Deputy Raymond Hoy testified that Mary Williams gave her

consent, and that he and Officer Matthew Hoy searched her apartment. Deputy Raymond Hoy also stated that no one pointed any guns at anyone. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants on all causes of action.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff Mary Williams claims that she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, or, in the alternative, to a new trial because the Court erroneously charged the jury that it could find exigent circumstances excused defendants' warrantless search of her apartment even though defendants had not raised exigent circumstances as a defense at trial. Plaintiffs Mary Williams Nasara Murphy and Michael Murphy also claim that the evidence at trial was insufficient as a matter of law to support the jury's verdict for defendants on ...


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