Three members of the Raton Police Department were recently indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter. The charges arose from a November 2007 incident in which the three officers were attempting to subdue a suspect. The officers began the ordeal by firing Tasers at the suspect then, placed him face down a police car with his legs shackled and a police officer sitting on his back. The unorthodox restraint technique, in addition to the drugs and the suspect’s system resulted in an impaired breathing and ultimately, his death.
New Mexico police misconduct cases, such as the one actionable by the deceased subject’s estate, are often times difficult to prove. Generally, contrary to popular belief, the success of a New Mexico police misconduct case is based not on the conduct of the police officers, but rather whether it was justifiable based on the conduct of the suspect. For example, there is no prohibition on using lethal force by police officers however, it is crucial that such force, when used be justifiable and proportionate to the harm that the suspect may pose. Similarly, any such conduct by police officers, whether it be Tasering, or physical restraint, must be necessary and in relation to the misconduct by the suspect.
For this reason, the success of a New Mexico medical malpractice case often depends on being able to prove that the officer’s conduct was not justified. Ideally, this can be accomplished through testimony and evidence other than from the plaintiff or his or her friends or family. Often times, this evidence is best when it comes from an independent, unbiased witness, or, better yet, a dashboard camera or other indisputable physical evidence.