Monday, October 27, 2008

A Man-Shoots-Dog Story

Some Bubba-killing cops blew their appeal and now must go to trial.
Bubba, by the way, is a dog.
A very lovely dog, too, judging by the lavishly detailed opinion issued Oct. 27 by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bubba was a 7-year-old labrador retriever/springer spaniel mix. He was minding his own doggy business in a Milwaukee backyard the night of Aug. 15, 2004, when police came barging in, searching for a felon allegedly accompanied by a pit bull. Officer Montell Carter came armed with a shotgun; as he put it:
"The best weapon for a dog is a shotgun, in my experience."
The encounter went south. Carter shot Bubba twice; ten minutes later, when the whimpering dog came out from hiding, Carter shot the dog two more times. Killed him; even as, in Judge Richard D. Cudahy's words, the neighbors "were shouting at the officers, telling them Bubba wasn't a bad dog." As Cudahy put it, "this is not, to say the least, a record that paints a sympathetic picture" of the police actions. Turns out, moreover, that "every circuit that has considered the issue has held that the killing of a companion dog constitutes a 'seizure' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment." Who knew?
The police claim sovereign immunity should block the subsequent lawsuit. For reasons that are not nearly as entertaining as the dog-shooting itself -- DoyleReports Rule of Thumb: fact patterns trump legal reasoning every time -- the 7th Circuit rejected the cops' appeal of a district judge's refusal to summarily dismiss the complaint. The civil trial will proceed, with Bubba watching from Dog Heaven.

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