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The right to criticize police – Lynchburg Excessive Use of Force

 

Civil Rights News

 

Independence Day Celebration

Commonwealth Declines to Request
Indictment for Man Charged With Assaulting Lynchburg Police Officers

On July 2, 2001, the Lynchburg Commonwealth Attorney’s Office announced that it would decline to present to the grand jury for the City of Lynchburg, Virginia two felony charges against a Lynchburg man charged with assaulting two police officers on March 29, 2001.

Thomas H. Roberts, civil rights attorney from Richmond, representing Craig Morris, praised the decision, stating that the Commonwealth Attorney’s decision was not only courageous but the right thing to do. The testimony of the two officers claiming Morris assaulted them provided seriously conflicting accounts. But more important than the conflicting accounts, is the fact that the law simply does not support the charges levied against Craig Morris.

Craig Morris, a black male, expressed his opinion that he did not appreciated being harassed by the police when he had not committed a crime. The officers claimed that he was arrested for using the term “f_ck,” when Morris asked why he was being harassed. Nevertheless the officers admitted that the term was one they used themselves on other occasions. Roberts argued that Morris had a right to express his commentary on police conduct and argued that the arrest was unlawful and therefore under common law long recognized by the Supreme Court of Virginia, Morris had every right to use reasonable force to repel the unlawful arrest. The fact that the officers took Morris into custody demonstrates that he should have used more force, since he did not repel the officers. Witnesses to the event claim that Morris was beaten by the officers and that he did not resist or use any force and that any injuries to the officers were inflicted upon themselves as they beat Morris. The officers admitted that he was walking away from them when they attempted to arrest him and blinded him with pepper spray before striking him several times. Morris is being treated for head injuries and other wounds from the multiple blows he received.

 

Roberts stated that he will continue to represent Morris in order to hold the officers accountable under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteen Amendments to the Constitution. Roberts concluded, “As we celebrate our independence we cannot stand idly by to see the tyranny of England replaced by a tyranny from within.”