A federal judge has ordered a partial retrial of a 2017 excessive-force lawsuit against eight Columbus police officers, saying it was possible that the jurors did not consider the full weight of the evidence surrounding the latter part of a South Side man's arrest.
In December 2021, a jury rejected improper force allegations and denied all claims made by Timothy Davis, a South Side man who was arrested in 2017 and sued the city after claiming the arresting officers used excessive force against him. But Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley of U.S. District Court in Columbus ordered a partial new trial in the suit earlier this month, saying a complete verdict in favor of the officers "is against the clear weight of the evidence."
"The evidence in this case was disturbing. (Columbus officers) beat and electrocuted (Davis with a stun gun), very nearly to death, even though he was unarmed, outnumbered, and generally contained at the end of the arrest," Marbley wrote.
Davis initially sued in September 2017, shortly after he was arrested at a convenience store in the Driving Park neighborhood on several warrants, including one related to a 2016 assault on an officer.
Cellphone video footage of the incident taken by a bystander inside the store shows plainclothes Columbus officers struggling to subdue Davis, who police said refused to comply with their instructions to put his hands behind his back and resisted being taken down.
Prior to being handcuffed, at least six officers pinned Davis to the ground while he received blows and stun gun shocks from officers, according to Marbley's opinion. During the trial, police testified that they felt Davis was resisting.
All eight officers may be sued again for use of force and the city may also be held liable from the point after officers had pinned Davis to the ground, according to Marbley's opinion.
Judge says evidence in final stage of arrest is 'problematic'
While Marbley acknowledged that the jurors' verdict was reasonable as to the early stages of the arrest when Davis was moving on his own free will, Marbley said "the weight of the evidence is problematic" in the final phase of his arrest - after he is already pinned to the ground by arresting officers.
"Once Plaintiff was pinned to the ground by four, five, and six officers- versus two, earlier in the arrest- the risk of flight and ability to resist all but vanished," Marbley wrote.
During the arrest, the officers pinned Davis to the ground by using their body weight while other officers punched and knee kicked Davis. Court records show that a Columbus police officer used his stun gun for a combined 55 seconds, which exceeds the manufacturer's standards of 15 seconds due to risk of internal damage.
Marbley added that Davis was never given a chance to comply with officers amid a series of blows, stun gun cycles, and while pinned under "1,200 pounds of weight."
"The force never relented to give (Davis) a reasonable chance to comply," Marbley wrote. "(Davis) had as little as one second between (officer's) taser cycles in which to regain control of his muscles and comply with commands."
Opinion: Davis jury decision shows Black people "seen as particular threats" by police
In the motion for a new trial, Rebecca Salley, one of Davis' attorneys, argued that "no reasonable jury could find that each and every one of the dozens of uses of force against Timothy Davis was justified."
A spokesperson for City Attorney Zach Klein's office could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
Police review said officers acted within policy
An internal review by the Columbus Division of Police determined that all eight officers acted within policy for use of force, but four were found to have violated a division policy regarding use of profanity. Those officers were given counseling.
The incident attracted attention when it was revealed that one of the officers who arrived as backup made inflammatory comments to another officer that were captured on his body camera about how the officers involved had handled the arrest, The Dispatch previously reported.
Officer Joseph Bogard said he would have told Davis, "I'm going to for real arm-bar you, and then when that still doesn't work, I'm going to choke the life out of you. Then while you're drooling on yourself, I'll handcuff you."
Bogard received a written reprimand from then-Police Chief Kim Jacobs.
Davis sentenced to jail for previous assault on officer
In 2018, Davis was sentenced to 30 months in prison after he was found guilty of assaulting an officer and obstructing official business during an attempted arrest in September 2016. Davis' assault on an officer occurred a year before his arrest in Driving Park.
In the September 2016 incident, Davis managed to escape from officers after a struggle during which he struck an officer in the face with the handcuff that had been placed on one of his wrists. The officer required stitches above his right eye.
Davis has a long history of resisting and fleeing officers, prosecutors said, including a case in Kentucky in which he was accused of running over a state trooper's foot while fleeing a traffic stop.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Judge orders partial retrial of Columbus police use-of-force lawsuit