A federal appeals court has ordered a new trial in a lawsuit against a Stafford County sheriff’s deputy accused of using excessive force in the fatal shooting of a county man.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an unpublished three-judge panel opinion, said a jury’s inconsistent verdict required a new trial of the claims against Deputy Neal Robey.
The Alexandria federal jury awarded $267,000 to the family of a man fatally shot by Robey in a 2008 backyard encounter. The victim had a loaded gun and was said to be suicidal. Robey said he fired the deadly shots because the victim raised his hand as if to shoot two other officers at the scene. Civilian witnesses denied the victim made any such gesture.
The trial judge set aside the jury’s verdict because the jury had made a specific finding that Robey had a reasonable belief the victim posed an imminent threat of harm. The trial judge therefore found Robey was entitled to qualified immunity on the excessive force claim.
The appeals court panel held the jury instructions allowed for inconsistent answers and, under the circumstances, required a new trial.
The Free Lance-Star reports a key issue at trial was the absence of blood on a gun the officers said they recovered from under the victim’s body after the shooting.