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Turner v. City of Dothan

United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama, Southern Division

April 30, 2015

JOHN TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF DOTHAN, a Municipality, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

MYRON H. THOMPSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff John Turner brought this action against the defendants (the City of Dothan and a number of its police officers in their official and individual capacities), asserting unlawful search and use of excessive force in violation of his Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution as well as violations of Alabama common law. Subject-matter jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (federal question), 1343(a)(3) (civil rights), and 1367 (supplemental). The case is now before the court on the defendants’ objection to Turner’s amended complaint and the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The motion to dismiss will be granted and the objection to Turner’s amended complaint will be overruled as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of late-night 9-1-1 call to the police from Turner’s residence. In November 2008, someone from the residence started to call 9-1-1 but hung up before anyone answered. A Dothan policeman came to the house to investigate and, after knocking, was greeted by Turner’s companion at the front door. The policeman walked in uninvited.

After the policeman entered, Turner asked him to leave. Following a discussion, the policeman used his taser several times on Turner. Multiple other police officers then arrived at the house and proceeded to threaten, punch, and kick Turner. Turner claims he was not resisting.

Turner brought this case about two years later, asserting illegal police conduct during the above incident. However, at the same time Turner was bringing this case in federal court, he was being prosecuted in state court for assault and resisting arrest based on the same incident.

Turner moved to discontinue pretrial deadlines in this court--that is, he essentially sought a stay of this litigation--in response to the state prosecution. Counsel for the defendants objected.

In May 2011, this court conducted an on-the-record call regarding the motion to discontinue. In that call, the defendants’ counsel explained that he objected to a stay of the litigation unless Turner’s counsel provided assurance that the federal case would be dismissed should Turner be convicted in state court. Turner’s lawyer stated that he had “no intent on going forward with the case if [Turner] got found guilty” in state court. See May 3, 2011, Telephone Conference. When pressed, he agreed to do more for assurance. Specifically, he stated that, if Turner agreed, he would provide the court a signed statement from Turner promising to dismiss the federal case should Turner be found guilty in state court. This court ruled that Turner’s counsel had three days to file the promised statement or else the motion for a stay would be denied.

Three days later, Turner filed another motion to discontinue existing pretrial deadlines with an accompanying declaration. The declaration reads:

“COMES NOW Plaintiff John Turner, and pursuant to the verbal order of the Court, expresses the following as his declaration of intent with regard to the future progress of this case: In the event Plaintiff is found guilty of the charges of assault and resisting arrest currently pending against him in the case of City of Dothan v. John Turner, CC 2009-1367, Circuit Court of Houston County, Alabama, he will dismiss this federal civil suit; however, in the event Plaintiff is found not guilty of the charges, he will go forward in prosecuting this federal case to its conclusion.”

Dec. to the Court (doc. no. 41) at 3. Turner signed the declaration, and it was notarized. After receiving this declaration, the court discontinued all deadlines, stayed this litigation, and required the parties to provide monthly joint reports on the status of the criminal case.

Around three years later, in March 2014, a state jury found Turner not guilty of aggravated assault but guilty of resisting arrest. The stay was dissolved the same month.

Turner moved to amend his complaint in October 2014. The court allowed the amended complaint but provided defendants with time to file an objection. The defendants filed a timely ...


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