SB police video brutality case goes before Indiana Supreme Court

The Indiana Supreme Court heard oral argument Thursday in a possible precedent-setting case out of St. Joseph County.

At stake is a South Bend man’s ‘video vindication.’

The term “indisputable evidence” is well-known on the football field. It’s what is needed on an instant replay to overturn a call made in the heat of the moment.

While it’s old hat for the folks in stripes, it’s trail blazing stuff for those in robes. “I can tell you that what I saw was grainy. It was vague. It was dark and I couldn’t discern what was going on,” said Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Rucker.

What all the justices saw was a video of Royce Love being arrested in South Bend in August of 2013. The Indiana Court of Appeals took a look at the same clip and called it “indisputable evidence” that Love did not resist officers who nonetheless hit Love twice with a Taser, kicked him three times and deployed a dog who bit Love on the arm.

The appeals court reversed Love’s trial court convictions for resisting law enforcement and mistreatment of a law enforcement animal.

“Reminds me of the Rodney King case,” said Love’s attorney Jeff Kimmel. “I’m sure we’ve all seen that. There you have a better angle in the helicopter overhead; it’s just not as good of a tape.”

Ellen Meilaender with the Office of Indiana’s Attorney General warned justices that video was unreliable in a lot of ways: “You can’t tell by watching the video at what point the Taser is deployed, you can’t tell precisely at what point the canine is deployed, you can’t tell at what point the officers succeeded in handcuffing the defendant.”

The justices were told to concentrate on the 10 or so seconds that it took Love to leave his vehicle, and peacefully surrender. “He did go down on the ground and it’s on the tape, he went to his knees, he went to his stomach and that’s when the force was used,” attorney Kimmel said. “That makes the force gratuitous and I would submit to the court that it is indisputable.”

The Court of Appeals found the video to be clear enough to contradict the testimony of at least three police officers who said Love attempted to walk away and was completely uncooperative.

The Indiana Supreme Court took the matter under advisement.

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