Officers exonerated in lawsuit

By Robin Fornoff

CMI PROJECTS EDITOR

rfornoff@cnjonline.com

Three Clovis police officers were exonerated in a $3 million civil lawsuit accusing them of using excessive force, city officials said Wednesday.

A District Court jury on Friday rejected attorney Dan Lindsey’s arguments on behalf of the estate of Juventino C. Hernandez, according to court records.

Lindsey accused three officers of hog tying Hernandez with a dog leash after handcuffing him and placing him in ankle restraints in June 2006.

Court testimony indicated Hernandez was “acting crazy” and may have been suffering a psychotic episode at the time, and he attacked officers responding to the family’s call for help.

Officers named in the suit included David Bryant, Eric Muller and Douglas Ford.

The officers testified Hernandez continued to kick after being cuffed and placed in restraints. The dog leash was looped around ankle restraints and handcuffs and drawn to prevent Hernandez from injuring himself, they said.

Hernandez died sometime after the incident, according to court records.

A jury deliberated about two hours after four days of trial, finding police didn’t use excessive force or violate Hernandez’s constitutional rights.

In doing so, the jury also rejected Lindsey’s request for $1 million in actual damages and another $2 million in punitive damages against police, according to court records.

Prior to the verdict, Lindsey asked special Judge Albert Mitchell of Quay County to declare a mistrial, arguing all Hispanic candidates were rejected from the jury by the city’s insurance attorney Greg Biehler.

Mitchell rejected Lindsey’s request.

Lindsey said he plans appeal the jury’s decision.