Motions filed ahead of civil trial for man shot by ECPD in 2015
MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - Attorneys for a man shot by an Eau Claire Police officer in 2015, as well as for the City of Eau Claire, have filed motions ahead of a civil trial scheduled for next month.
Court documents filed with the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin show that the attorneys for both sides are providing lists of questions for the potential jurors, as well as a motion by the City of Eau Claire to dismiss a special agent’s report and two special verdict requests by the plaintiff.
Eau Claire Police Dept. Officer Hunter Braatz shot Tyler Holte on April 1, 2015 after a vehicle chase through Eau Claire ended with the shooting near the VFW on Starr Avenue. Holte is suing the City of Eau Claire, filing the lawsuit in March.
According to court documents, Holte’s attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, has provided a 36-question list for potential jurors in the civil trial, which includes inquiries such as asking whether or not they regularly watch police dramas, been on a police ride-along, or if they support use-of-force by police officers on suspects who do not do what they are ordered to do by law enforcement. There are also several questions about experiences with mental health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, in addition to the standard juror questions.
There are two proposed special verdict requests for the trial provided by Holte’s legal team. For the liability phase of the trial, the verdict question reads, “Did Hunter Braatz use unreasonable force under the circumstances against Tyler Holte on April 1, 2015?” For the damages phase, the verdict question reads, “What sum of money, if any, will fairly and reasonably compensate Tyler Holte for damages because of Hunter Braatz’s use of force?”
City of Eau Claire attorneys have a 14-question list for potential jurors, which includes topics such as experiences with law enforcement and use of force. The defense also seeks to ask potential jurors if they have participated in George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Black Lives Matter, or Defund The Police protests or support any efforts to defund or reform police departments or policing.
In addition to the potential juror list, the City of Eau Claire’s attorneys representing Officer Braatz filed a motion to exclude the report of the investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation following the incident. The motion cites four errors in the report, and asks that it not be allowed as evidence in the trial, noting that the errors were not realized until the special agent conducting the investigation was interviewed last week.
Officer Braatz’s attorneys are also asking the court to not allow evidence, argument, or testimony involving use of force or other similar incidents that have been recently publicized as part of the trial.
A motion by the City of Eau Claire to hold the trial to Eau Claire was denied by Western District of Wisconsin Judge James D. Peterson. Peterson wrote in denying the motion in June that the defendants, the City of Eau Claire and Officer Braatz, haven’t shown that holding the trial in Eau Claire is warranted. Holte’s attorney objected to having the trial in Eau Claire, stating that due to Holte’s financial situation, holding the trial in Eau Claire would place a burden on Holte. Judge Peterson wrote that the convenience of holding the trial in Eau Claire for the defendants and the witnesses is offset by the the inconvenience to Holte, and in denying the motion, stated that courts typically defer to the plaintiff’s choice of forum for the trial.
A motion for summary judgement by the defendants claiming Braatz is entitled to qualified immunity was also denied by Judge Peterson, writing that the law prohibits the use of deadly force against a passively resisting subject.
Holte was hospitalized with injuries as a result of the shooting. Court documents show Holte amassed more than $235,000 in medical bills recovering from his injuries after being shot.
More than two months after the incident in 2015, Eau Claire Co. District Attorney Gary King released a 10-page report that cleared Officer Braatz in the shooting, saying his actions were justified.
Holte’s attorney said at the time of the filing of the civil lawsuit earlier this year that those findings have no impact on a civil lawsuit.
“The fact that a criminal prosecution has not been brought, has no bearing really at all on the prospects of a civil damages action,” Olson said. “Certainly it has no legal impact on the outcome of a civil damages action.”
Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin August 16 in Madison, Wis.
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