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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

5th Circuit Upholds Man’s Right to Question Officer

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A man who claims to have been beaten by a police officer has the right to question the officer in front of a jury, the 5th Circuit ruled.

Ralph Hinojosa accused San Antonio Police Officer Israel Butler of breaking his finger during an attack from her baton.

The district court ruled in favor of Butler and the city after Butler invoked the Fifth Amendment about the following past incidents:

- Claiming to be rear-ended during a traffic stop when there was no evidence to support his claim;

- Offering to give a ticket to a city employee's wife in order to avoid arresting the employee on an outstanding warrant;

- Lying that a man was pointing a gun at him, in order to justify firing his weapon twice; and

- Resigning from the San Antonio police force after these three incidents.

Since Butler planned to take the Fifth, the court only allowed Hinojosa to cross-examine him away from the jury. Judge Elrod ruled that was a mistake and remanded the case for a new trial.

"We are not convinced that the prejudice Butler would have suffered in this case had he been required to invoke the Fifth Amendment before the jury was more severe than the degree of prejudice naturally commensurate with such a requirement," Elrod wrote.

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