City Witness Reinstated in Stop-and-Frisk Trial
MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge who will not preside over the trial on New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk policy reinstated a defense witness in what he called a "somewhat unusual procedural posture."
The ruling adds another twist to the nearly three-month long trial of Floyd v. The City of New York, a class action filed in 2008 by four black men who say they were targeted for racially discriminatory stops.
Represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, they want the New York City Police Department to face court oversight so that police officers comply with the U.S. Constitution in stopping and searching New Yorkers and visitors.
Under the Supreme Court's decision in Terry v. Ohio, police cannot stop and search a suspect without reasonable suspicion that he is about to commit, is committing or has committed a crime.
With the evidence phase of trial set to close before U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on Wednesday, both parties are preparing to offer "remedies experts" for Scheindlin to consider if she deems that the NYPD in violation of this standard and must be punished.
The Floyd plaintiffs recently scored a major victory when the federal magistrate assigned to the case green-lit a report from their expert Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The magistrate meanwhile rejected a report by the city's expert, James Stewart, a former director at the National Institute of Justice.
Since considering the city's appeal could have exposed Scheindlin to potentially impermissible evidence, she punted the matter to U.S. District Judge John Keenan.
He overruled the magistrate's decision Monday and returned the report to evidence.
"A review of the Stewart report shows that it merely serves as a rebuttal to the plaintiffs' expert report, and therefore should not be excluded," Keenan wrote. "At root, the Stewart report simply summarizes the recommendations of the Walker Report and then proceeds to explain why each is unfeasible, redundant, or ill advised."
Stewart plans to argue that the ordering further training of NYPD officers would be "redundant," and he will defend the force's institution of "performance indicators," which have been panned as euphemisms for quotas.
"Such information would be extremely helpful should Judge Scheindlin reach the issue of remedies and wish to consider the possibility of requiring additional officer training," Keenan's six-page order states.
While the remedies report is meant to discuss the penalty for constitutional violations, the plaintiffs argued that Stewart's report impermissibly delved into issues of liability.
Keenan said his colleague Scheindlin would not to confuse the issues.
"The District Court would not be swayed in the same way a jury might be, in the event it viewed evidence that was ultimately inadmissible," the order states. "Moreover, if the district court reaches the point where it is reviewing the remedies expert reports, then it has necessarily already made a determination as to liability. Accordingly, any inadvertent reference to issues relating to liability in either expert report would be viewed too late to affect the court's decision making on the issue of liability."
The remedies experts are expected to spar on Wednesday.
New York City Law Department spokeswoman Kate Ahlers wrote, "We are pleased that the judge recognized that our expert report was an appropriate document for the court to consider."
Representatives from the Center for Constitutional Rights could not immediately be reached for comment.