Tamara F. Lawson, Powerless Against Police Brutality: Felon’s Story, 25 St. Thomas L. Rev. 218 (2013), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/803
police brutality, excessive force, Fifth Amendment, FRE 609
Imagine driving to the store with friends, but while en route, you are shot and beaten by the police so severely that random citizen witnesses intervene to stop the police brutality. Next, envision recovering from these injuries and awakening from a coma chained to your hospital bed informed that you are under arrest for attempted murder of a police officer. Then, consider waiting over five years for the opportunity to tell your story to the court, believing justice will be served, but instead you discover that the trial is more influenced by the revelation of your prior criminal record than the knowledge of the serious injuries that the police inflicted upon you. These facts introduce the real police encounter experienced by Mr. Theodore Dukes, an ex-felon, in Miami-Dade County. This shooting incident stemmed from an investigation of Mr. Dukes for the misdemeanor of driving with an unauthorized license plate.
The criminal and civil obstacles Mr. Dukes faced after his shooting represent a particularly troublesome scenario that many ex-felons experience in police brutality cases. Police brutality victims must confront two very challenging situations: 1) how to successfully overcome the government’s criminal allegation that the suspect/victim aggressed the police, and 2) simultaneously preserve the right ability to bring a civil rights violation as a plaintiff/victim against the police for the true brutality suffered. The victim’s ex-felon status significantly increases the stakes regarding any potential punishment on the criminal side and greatly diminishes the likelihood of success or damage recovery on the civil side.