Marvin Booker lawsuit to establish pattern of police brutality in Denver, attorney says

This morning, a team led by attorney Darold Killmer will file a lawsuit on view below in relation to Marvin Booker, who died in Denver jail July 9 after being put in a sleeper hold and Tased.

But Killmer, who'll be center-stage during an 11 a.m. press conference about the case, says the Booker incident is only one of many alleged instances of excessive force cited in the suit.

"We're not just filing on behalf of Marvin Booker," Killmer notes. "Because of this wave of law-enforcement brutality Denver has experienced over the past few years, we're taking on the whole system. We've detailed dozens of examples of law-enforcement brutality to establish that Denver has a culture and environment that tolerates and therefore encourages brutality against citizens and residents."

Among the examples Killmer mentions is the 2006 jail death of Emily Rae Rice, subject of the Westword feature "Rae of Sunshine."

Why was the Booker case the right one to use as the centerpiece for the suit?

"The impact of it was so profoundly tragic," Killmer believes. "He was killed with no cause whatsoever, and his family has been begging the city to do something about it. They asked the district attorney to prosecute, and he refused to do so" -- click to read DA Mitch Morrissey's decision letter in the Booker matter. "They asked the city attorney's office to hold individuals accountable, and they refused to do. They asked Mayor Hickenlooper and temporary mayor Vidal to do something, and they've done nothing in response."

Indeed, Killmer and the family still haven't been able to see a video that captured Booker's death despite Hickenlooper's promise last September of a private viewing. "Two days after Mr. Booker was killed, the family asked to see the video," he notes. "At first, they were told they couldn't see it until after the coroner did an examination and report. Then, after that was done, they said, 'You can't see it until the DA decides whether to bring charges.' Then, after the DA predictably decided not to bring charges, they asked again and were told, 'You can't see evidence until after internal affairs finishes its investigation.'

"Now, it's seven-and-a-half months later -- the whole event took less than seven-and-a-half minutes -- and the investigation is still going on, with no end in sight. In Emily Rice's case, they were still investigating it nineteen months after she died. We shouldn't have to wait that long. So we'll get it through this lawsuit."

The bottom line for Killmer? "The city is not policing itself. In fact, they refuse to themselves. People don't get disciplined or fired. The whole apparatus is corrupt. The DA's office refuses to prosecute, the Office of the Independent Monitor refuses to react in any way other than to watch the inactivity of the system, and the mayor, whoever it is at the time, says nice words but never does anything. There seems to be no remedy. So where do we turn? We have to turn to the courts."

Page down to read the lawsuit in its entirety -- it pits the Booker estate against four deputies, a sergeant and the City and County of Denver -- as well as a release detailing this morning's press conference.

Marvin Booker lawsuit:

Press conference information:

PRESS CONFERENCE -- Filing of Lawsuit by Family of Marvin Booker Arising Out of Death at Denver Jail

A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Lindsey‐Flanigan Denver District Courthouse, 520 West Colfax Avenue to discuss the filing of the lawsuit by the Family of Marvin Louis Booker against the City and County of Denver and the 5 law enforcement officers involved in his killing on July 9, 2010 at the new Denver Jail.

Marvin Booker, who was 56 years old when he was killed at the jail, had been arrested on a minor municipal violation the evening of July 8. When he was finally called for booking after having waited several hours at the jail, he realized that he had forgotten his shoes where he had been sitting, and turned to retrieve them. Although he presented no threat, a Sheriff's Deputy pursued him to restrain him, and four other Sheriff's officials jumped on him, aggressively forcing him to the ground. One officer applied a carotid chokehold, called a "sleeper hold," while other officers forcefully restrained his arms with handcuffs and legs by beating them with nunchucks, placing their full weight upon his helpless body, while another officer then inflicted powerful Taser shocks to his body. Mr. Booker, who was only 5' 5" tall and weighed only 135 lbs, died under these multiple restraints. Although there were many eyewitnesses to the killing, and it was captured on videotape from several angles, nothing has been done to discipline the officers involved. Denver has stalled for over 7 months, claiming to still be "investigating" the incident that took only a few minutes to occur.

Mr. Booker's death was captured on videotape, but Denver has refused to allow his family or the public to see this crucial evidence, or any other evidence at all. The City of Denver and various institutions and individuals have engaged in a conspiracy to cover‐up the details of this killing, which is only one recent example of the custom and culture within Denver law enforcement to encourage, condone and ratify brutality on the part of law enforcement officers. Although there have been numerous instances of brutality in Denver over the last several years, no effective remedial action is taken by the City against the wrongdoers, contributing to the culture where such unconstitutional behavior is allowed to continue and recur.

The Booker family is represented by the Denver civil rights law firm of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP. Family members and their legal counsel will be available to further explain the legal bases and goals of this lawsuit and to answer inquiries from the public and the media.

More from our News archive: "Marvin Booker protest rally and march on the 16th Street Mall: A photo gallery."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts