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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Excessive-Force Award Against Police Upheld

ST. LOUIS (CN) — A federal judge refused to grant a new trial to two St. Louis police officers convicted in August and ordered to pay $600,000 for using excessive force during an arrest.

Calvin Fletcher, now 39, claimed in a 2014 lawsuit that Officers Nicholas Martorano and John Moton were among four officers who targeted him for false arrest because he is black, repeatedly shocked him with a Taser and beat him. Fletcher suffered broken bones in his face and kidney damage.

The federal jury did not award damages against the two other defendant officers, Joseph Tomlinson and Joseph Carroll, but ordered Martorano and Moton to pay $200,000 in actual and $400,000 in punitive damages.

Fletcher claimed that video cameras in a police van were deliberately turned off so the attack would not be recorded. He says he was held in the St. Louis Justice Center for nearly a week while his kidneys shut down.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce did not file any charges against Fletcher, though police sought charges of possession of a controlled substance, assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.

Martorano and Moton sought a new trial because Fletcher's attorney read statements from a doctor who had given a deposition in support of a co-defendant, but was unavailable to testify in person.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie White on Friday rejected the claim that their attorneys did not have an opportunity to cross-examine the doctor.

Moton separately argued that there was no evidence he injured Fletcher. But White said Moton needed to make that argument before the case went to the jury.

White also ordered the officers to pay the Fletcher's attorney fees of $186,000.

The Missouri attorney general's office, which represented the officers, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch it had no comment, and referred a reporter to the police department, which said to call the attorney general's office.

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