U.S. top court spurns father's appeal in Maryland police shooting case

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 19, 2015 12:15 PM

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid to reinstate $250,000 in damages awarded by a Maryland jury to the father of a man shot dead by a police during a SWAT-style predawn drug raid in 2005 that turned up only a small amount of marijuana.

The justices refused to hear an appeal filed by Andrew Kane, whose son Andrew Cornish was killed during the raid in Cambridge, Maryland.

In siding with Kane in his federal civil rights lawsuit over the incident, jurors in 2012 concluded Cambridge police officers had failed to knock on the door and announce their identity as required before entering Cornish's second-floor apartment.

During the trial, police officers testified they had announced their identity and that Cornish, 31, was shot when he charged at them with a knife.

Critics have cited the case as an example of heavy-handed police tactics in America.

Kane's lawsuit, filed in 2008, contended police violated his son's rights under the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which protects people's rights to be secure in their homes against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March threw out the jury's 2012 decision, saying a reasonable jury could not conclude the failure to knock and announce had caused Cornish's death.

The officers had search warrants for the apartment building, obtained based on suspected drug activity. A small amount of marijuana was found in Cornish's apartment following the raid.

"Why police thought it necessary to use military-style tactics and to perform the search in the dead of night is not clear. Police had no reason to believe that Cornish would respond with violence," Cornish's lawyer noted in court filings.

There has been increased scrutiny of police use of force in the United States, especially in incidents involving minorities, since the August 2014 shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Cornish was black.

The Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank, had filed court papers asking the Supreme Court to hear the case in part because it draws attention to the increasing use of what the group characterizes as heavy-handed police tactics in sometimes routine criminal cases.

The number of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team raids has increased 1,400 percent since the 1980s, the Cato brief said.

The case is Kane v. Lewis, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-193.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)