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Indiana Excessive Force Suit Not Heck-Barred

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s dismissal of an Indiana prisoner’s excessive force suit, concluding that the prisoner’s claims were not barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

“Police burst into the home of Ty Evans to stop what they reasonably believed was his attempt to strangle someone to death,” the court wrote. Police claimed that “Evans resisted arrest and had to be subdued” while Evans claimed that “he offered no resistance and was beaten mercilessly both before and after the officers gained custody of him.” He says “his skull was fractured and his face mangled, leading to three surgeries and bone grafts….his vision has been permanently impaired.”

Evans was convicted of attempted murder and resisting arrest and sentenced to 71 years in prison. He sued police, alleging that they subjected him to excessive force during and after his arrest. The district court dismissed the action as barred by Heck.

The Seventh Circuit reversed. Even though the parties did not cite it and the district court did not discuss it, the court noted that Wallace v. Kato, 549 US 384 (2007) “holds that a claim that accrues before a criminal conviction may and usually must be filed without regard to the conviction’s validity.”

The court explained that “Evans’s situation illustrates how a fourth-amendment claim can coexist with a valid conviction. He contends three things: (1) that he did not resist being taken into custody; (2) that the police used excessive force to effect custody; and (3) that the police beat him severely even after reducing him to custody.” The first contention is “incompatible with his conviction” and “must be stayed or dismissed under Wallace or Heck,” the court found. However, the second and third contentions “are entirely consistent with a conviction for resisting arrest.”

The court noted that it previously held under similar circumstances that “a prisoner need not repudiate his allegation that he did nothing wrong in order to maintain that he was the victim of excessive force.” See: Gilbert v. Cook, 512 F.3d 362 (7th Cir. 2008).

“Evans is entitled to an opportunity to prove that the defendants used unreasonable force during and after his arrest,” the court concluded and reversed. See: Evans v. Poskon, 603 F.3d 362 (7th Cir. 2010).

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Related legal case

Evans v. Poskon