The U.S. Supreme Court won’t consider an appeal challenging the retrial of a civil case concerning the officer at the center of a 2012 Anaheim police shooting that partially prompted unrest and riots in the city, the panel announced Monday.
The decision lets stand a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a lawsuit filed by the mother of Manual Diaz should be re-tried at the U.S. District Courthouse in Santa Ana, after “irrelevant inflammatory evidence” introduced during an earlier trial led the appeals judges to throw out a jury verdict.
“I think the court of appeals correctly determined that the mother of the deceased did not get a fair trial,” said Dale Galipo, the lead attorney on the civil lawsuit. “That at least ensures us our day in court.”
Genevieve Huizar, Diaz’s mother, alleges in the lawsuit that Anaheim Officer Nick Bennallack used excessive force in July 2012 when he shot and killed her unarmed son at the end of a short foot chase.
Bennallack has said he shot Diaz because he thought Diaz had a gun in his hand and was preparing to fire.
Diaz’s death, following a series of other officer-involved shootings, set off several days of at-times violent protests. Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigators cleared Bennallack of criminal wrongdoing.
After the earlier verdict, a juror seemingly backed up the officer’s argument, telling reporters that police could reasonably expect that someone dressed like a gang member and running from officers in an area known for gang violence could be armed.
“Our thoughts go out to all impacted by this case,” Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said Monday after the Supreme Court declined to consider it.
“While we respect the court’s decision, we would have liked to have seen it brought to a close,” he said. “The original jury decision reflected and acknowledged the complexity of situations that our officers face.”
In throwing out the original jury verdict, the appeals court judges wrote that defendants and witnesses in the initial trial repeatedly discussed Diaz’s gang background and drug ties, despite a judge’s rulings limiting that evidence from being brought up.
The Supreme Court decision means there are no more roadblocks to a retrial, currently scheduled for late October, Galipo said. The city is also named in the lawsuit.