Officer's acquittal won't be last word on killing
Meade and the city of Everett are defendants in a $15 million civil lawsuit filed by the family of Niles Meservey, the man Meade shot.
“An acquittal in a criminal case has very little importance to our civil suit against the city,” said Paul Luvera, the Seattle attorney who filed the suit.
The burden of proof is different in civil cases, he said. Jurors in a criminal case must reach a unanimous decision and find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil trials, only a majority of jurors are needed for a plaintiff to win a case, and the standard of proof also is lower — a preponderance of evidence.
“The issue in our civil case is what community standards the citizens want to set for the use of deadly force by their police officers,” Luvera said. “In our civil case the question for the jury is whether they want to set reasonable limits on police officers before they decide to shoot someone seven times in the back for being intoxicated.”
Luvera pointed to the civil case against O.J. Simpson as a good example. In the civil case, Simpson was found to be responsible for killing his ex-wife and her friend even though he had been acquitted of murder in the criminal case.
Tanda Louden, Meservey's daughter, filed a claim for damages with the city of Everett in September for up to $15 million. On Feb. 17 she filed a lawsuit in Snohomish County Superior Court.
In a statement issued Monday, Louden said she was disappointed the jury in Meade's criminal trial did not vote to convict.
“Nevertheless, I am confident that a jury in a civil case will find officer Meade responsible and hold him fully accountable,” she said.
Meservey, 51, of Stanwood, was drunk and belligerent on June 10 when Meade asked him to step out of his car.
Meade, 41, testified in court that he feared for his life when he opened fire and shot eight rounds into Meservey's car. Meade said he saw the car's reverse lights come on.
That's contrary to the police investigation findings, Luvera said.
Luvera is nationally known for winning large settlements for his clients. He won $12 million for the survivors of the wife of former Tacoma Police Chief David Brame. The former police chief killed the woman before turning the gun on himself. The suit also required Tacoma to implement changes in its training and procedures.
The next step in the civil lawsuit is for the case to be assigned to a judge, Luvera said.
Then he can start taking depositions, under oath, from various people involved, including Meade. When Meade testified in the criminal case he surrendered his constitutional rights to remain silent in the civil case, Luvera said.
Luvera said he found it unusual that Seattle-based attorney Lou Peterson sent both parties in the criminal case documents questioning the credibility of Steve Klocker, an Everett police officer who testified against Meade. Peterson was hired by Everett to be Luvera's opponent in the civil case.
“It was unfair to officer Klocker to have it happen this way,” Luvera said.
The contents of those documents were not introduced in the criminal case. Among other things, there were notes from an Everett deputy chief, suggesting that Klocker's credibility had been questioned by an Everett municipal court judge.
County prosecutors investigated, and told a Superior Court judge there was misunderstanding and confusion over what that city judge had said, but there was no evidence of lying by Klocker. David Allen, Meade's attorney, didn't include the documents as part of Meade's defense.
Luvera examined the records. He said there was no evidence of Klocker misleading anyone. “It was much ado about nothing,” Luvera said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437; email@example.com.
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