He was pulled over for a turn signal violation. Then he was dragged from his car by multiple officers.
Two Ada County deputies and two Boise police officers have been cleared in a lawsuit claiming they used excessive force in pulling a Nampa driver from his car and taking him to the ground on Interstate 84 in 2011.
Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Wednesday dismissed the case against Deputies Dale Morehouse and Nick Shaffer and Cpl. Jeffrey Hill of the Boise Police Department. Attorneys representing the three officers argued that plaintiff Lee Rice II had not proven his case against the three officers, and the judge agreed.
On Thursday, the six-member jury hearing Rice's lawsuit deliberated for about three hours before ruling in favor of Cpl. Mark Abercrombie.
Rice said he was permanently injured after the officers kneed him and twisted his arm. He was removed from his car following a traffic stop after he refused to hand over his driver's license to the Idaho State Police trooper who pulled him over in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 2011.
Rice testified that he refused to leave his car because he said he was pepper-sprayed and beaten during a prior incident at the federal courthouse in Boise. He asked ISP Sgt. Janet Murakami to let him speak to a supervisor. Rice was pulled from his car after ignoring repeated requests from Murakami to give her his license.
Attorneys representing the officers and Rice were not immediately available for comment on Thursday afternoon.
The story below was published April 23, 2018, under the headline, "Motorist dragged from car testifies police caused injuries."
More than seven years after a Nampa man was forcefully pulled from his car and taken to the ground after a traffic stop on Interstate 84, a lawsuit claiming that police injured him through use of excessive force has gone to trial.
Lee Rice II says he was kneed repeatedly and that his hip was "virtually destroyed" during an early morning stop on Dec. 26, 2011, according to his complaint filed in federal court in Boise. Rice was pulled from the car after he would not hand over his driver's license to the Idaho State Police trooper who stopped him. He also refused to get out of his vehicle.
"They had a knee into me," Lee testified on Monday. "They were twisting my arm. They twisted my thumb."
Rice, who is seeking at least $100,000 plus punitive damages, sued ISP Sgt. Janet Murakami, the ISP, Ada County, the cities of Boise and Meridian, and 16 other officers who responded to the scene.
Murakami pulled over Rice for failing to signal two lane changes for the full five seconds required by Idaho law. She testified Monday that she suspected he might be intoxicated because he was driving 10 miles per hour slower than the speed limit and drifted in his lane.
"None of the officers on this call would testify that such a violation calls for a punishment that cripples the driver," Rice's attorney, Richard Harris, wrote in a court document. "Yet that is the punishment that was meted out for his delaying getting out of the car."
Murakami, who was not accused of excessive force, had the claims against her dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. All but four officers — Ada Deputies Dale Morehouse and Nick Shaffer, and Boise's Jeffrey Hill and Mark Abercrombie, both police corporals — were also dropped from the suit, along with the cities and county.
Murakami, who has worked for the state police for 16 years, said Rice's wife immediately confronted her, asking why she was following their car with her bright lights on, which upset them. Murakami denied driving with her bright lights and said she remained seven car lengths behind Rice's car while she observed his driving.
The defendants say they responded to the scene along the westbound shoulder of the freeway at Meridian after Murakami sought Code 3 assistance for a "life or death" matter. Morehouse helped the trooper pull Rice from his car and Shaffer grabbed his left arm after Murakami lost her grip. They said Rice struggled with them.
After deputies forced Rice to the ground, he pulled his arm from Shaffer's grip and tucked his arm under his chest. The deputies, who said in court filings that they feared Rice might be reaching for a weapon, were assisted by Hill and Abercrombie, as well as another officer.
"Despite being outnumbered five to one and repeatedly being ordered to comply with the officers' requests, (the) plaintiff continued to physically and verbally resist and it took the five officers well over a minute to finally overcome (the) plaintiff's resistance and pull his arms behind his back and place him in handcuffs," according to a filing by the deputies.
The officers deny using excessive force, saying they used the force necessary to take Rice into custody. They say they were within their rights.
Rice claims he was permanently injured, most notably to his right hip. He said he was forced to use a cane to walk for about a month after the incident, as his condition got worse.
The officers say Rice's medical records do not support his allegations. Records from the Boise VA Medical Center show that Rice had pre-existing back and hip pain, according to defense documents.. On Dec. 7, 2011, 19 days before the incident, a VA doctor referred Rice for evaluation and treatment of degenerative hip pain.
The following month, a second doctor who evaluated him recommended that Rice be treated with injections to his hip. The defense said there were no records to show Rice had the injections.
In July 2012, Rice had X-rays taken of his pelvis and hips. His doctor found further degeneration of his hips and his spine. There was no sign of a fracture, and the defense claimed the results were similar to a prior examination in September 2011.
On Monday, outside the presence of the jury, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that Rice would not be allowed to tell the jury that he had his hip replaced. The judge said jurors might infer that Rice had to have such a procedure because of the alleged beating.
An attorney who represented Rice before being replaced failed to meet a deadline for identifying expert witnesses Rice planned to have testify. As a result, the defense argued that it would not be able to challenge the reason for the hip replacement if Rice was able to introduce that fact.
The trial is scheduled to last a week. Rice was scheduled to retake the witness stand on Tuesday. Harris had not finished his questioning of his client, and the defense still had not begun its questioning of him.