How Badly Can Police Screw Up a Case?
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (CN) - Police falsely accused and imprisoned a man for eight months without bond after a high-profile beheading, and then tried to cover up their flawed and malicious charges, the man claims in court.
Bethany, Okla., police officers found a black nylon bag containing the head and dismembered body parts of Carina Brianne Saunders on Oct. 13, 2011. Police believed Saunders was tortured and killed in an abandoned house in southwestern Oklahoma City before being dismembered and dumped in suburban Bethany.
Under intense media pressure to find the murderer, investigators used "deceptive, misleading, manipulative and illegal tactics" to arrest Luis Enrique Ruiz and charge him with the crime, his attorneys say in the 27-page federal complaint.
Ruiz - who was arrested on July 5, 2012 - sued the City of Bethany, it Police Chief Phil Cole and Bethany police Officers Jack Ronald Jencks and Austin Warfield.
Perhaps the most damning of Ruiz's allegations is that the defendants failed to report that he was in jail at the time of the murder.
"All defendant' alone and/or in concert with others knowingly and intentionally suppressed and hid evidence of plaintiff's lack of culpability, exculpatory evidence, testimony by other witnesses, and by alleged cooperating witnesses which indicated the plaintiff did not commit the crime of Murder in the 1st Degree," the complaint states. "As an example, defendants failed to acknowledge the inconsistencies within the Probable Cause Affidavits and supporting or underlying unreliable law enforcement reports. Defendant' failed to acknowledge that the plaintiff was in law enforcement custody at the date and time in which they asserted plaintiff committed the homicide."
Ruiz claims in the lawsuit the defendants promised leniency to known drug addicts to help fabricate their prosecution. He claims, inter alia, that:
- certain witnesses were shown leniency in their own drug-related criminal matters, including not being arrested or charged for their criminal conduct and being allowed to keep illegal substances found in their possession;
- the defendants coerced a confession out of Jimmy Massey that would not satisfy constitutional scrutiny, and attempted to coerce a confession out of Ruiz;
- the defendants failed to adequately supervise Officer Jencks, who was stealing mind-altering controlled substances from the Bethany Police Evidence Room.
These thefts caused the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office to file 10 charges of larceny against the evidence room on Feb. 6 this year, according to the complaint.
"After the arrest of the plaintiff, the filing of criminal charges, and detention without bond of the plaintiff, the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office and other known and unknown parties, became aware of the flawed investigation, the manipulation and falsification of evidence and proposed testimony as created and improperly prepared by the defendants," the complaint states.
"It is and has been common practice and procedure in the Oklahoma County District Court for the State of Oklahoma, acting through the District Attorney's Office to provide a criminally charged person (or his counsel) the discovery (law enforcement reports) upon request, well in advance of a Preliminary Examination to properly prepare the case (consistent with title 22, Section 258 of the Oklahoma Statutes). However, said reports and discovery were not turned over in a customary fashion. They were provided 6 months following the charging of the plaintiff, on January 14 and 15th of 2013. It is believed that efforts were made by the defendants during the Fall of 2012 to shore up or prove up the case that was known, or should have been known to have been based upon manipulated and false information at the time of arrest, detention and denial of the plaintiff's bond," according to the lawsuit.
Ruiz claims the Oklahoma County District Attorney dismissed the murder charges against him on Feb. 22, 2013, after it became clear that "the District Attorney could not in good conscience, or successfully, prosecute the plaintiff for the charge of Murder in the 1st Degree."
Ruiz was released after spending more than eight months in jail without bond.
He claims the defendants were negligent, falsely arrested him, coerced testimony, fabricated evidence and ignored exculpatory information to build a case against him, which could have resulted in the death penalty.
Ruiz says the defendants' actions were wrongful, malicious and intentional.
He says he has been humiliated, suffered severe emotional pain and anguish, damage to his reputation, has lost past and future income and has been forced to pay for his legal defense.
He seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of his Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights, false arrest and false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, negligence and abuse of process.
He is represented by Greg Mitchell of Babbitt, Mitchell & Chance.
Police are still looking for Saunders' killer, according to KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.