In Dover, Arkansas on September 13, 2011, a mother and her juvenile son were out walking their dog when things quickly escalated after police showed up and questioned them about drugs. Now, the very evidence that police are supposed to keep – evidence that would have vindicated them – has mysteriously disappeared.
Eva Robinson and her son Matthew, 16, were minding their own business when they were approached by a Dover Marshall, a Pope County Sheriffs Deputy, and an Arkansas State Police Officer who questioned them about drugs and demanded they be searched before essentially beating them up, says Holly Dickson, an ACLU attorney.
The family filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock back in September, 2012 claiming that Eva and her son were walking their dog in front of the church next to their house. They were not engaged in any type of illegal, suspicious or improper activity. They were just walking their dog.
The evening ended with Eva being arrested and injured – and her son being arrested, handcuffed, battered and tased a minimum of six times by the officers with a stun gun, the suit claimed.
The civil rights complaint accused officers of excessive force and other wrongful acts that violated the families Fourth, Eighth and 14th amendment rights including, but not limited to, the use of excessive force against Eva Robinson to prevent her from stopping the torture by the officers of her son through the use of the Taser.
Eva was convicted in Dover District Court in April 2012 of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief. Her son pleaded guilty to similar charges.
In July 2012, Eva Robinson was found not guilty by a Pope County Circuit Court jury of the misdemeanor charges she was convicted of in April, reversing the District Court verdict that convicted her. This is when the family preceded to sue the City of Dover. The ACLU would later join the lawsuit in July, 2013.
“Their actions (police) were extraordinary and excessive,” the Robinson’s attorney, Patrick James said at the time. “It’s scary when law-abiding citizens can be pulled off the streets in front of their own homes while walking their dog and treated this way when they’ve violated no laws.”
The camera from the Pope County deputy’s cruiser did produce a dark and grainy video but, for some reason, didn’t produce audio. Nothing at all was recovered from the state police officer’s camera. Also, data stored on the taser gun used on the teen, that would have showed when and for how long, was ‘lost’ as well.
“It’s not just our belief that there should be more evidence,” ACLU attorney Holly Dickson said. “It was policy of the Arkansas State Police and Pope County Sheriff’s Office [to keep this information].”
The disappearance of police evidence prompted an order from a federal judge Thursday, forcing Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duvall to pay $4,500 in attorneys fees to the Robinsons’ legal team.
Justice of the Peace David Ivy said this in a statement:
“As a justice on the quorum court, when I vote to allocate funds for necessary legal functions of county departmental heads, I certainly do not intend for those funds to be used for the payment of fines that resulted from an elected official’s failure to comply with a lawful court order. I don’t believe this is the intent of any of the quorum court representatives. I believe this is an irresponsible use of public funds.”
It appears Justice Ivy is more perturbed about having to pay out for the “disregard of department policy” that mandates officers collect and store data during their work day, rather than the actual police brutality itself.
That is, if the lack of data simply resulted from incompetence by officers when documenting the event, and not what we continue to see over and over again in cases of this nature – the blatant criminal suppression of evidence by the officers themselves.
“If we had more video and we had audio and we had the evidence from the taser, that could answer a lot of the questions,” Dickson said.”We’ve never received any explanation that’s held water as to what happened to that data.”
Police State Daily has confirmed that it is Pope County policy to record events and retain data on tasers. It would not be unlikely for one or even two documenting mechanisms to malfunction, but the hat trick? (1. Audio for Pope County Deputy, 2. Audio and Video for Arkansas Sate Trooper, 3. Taser Data)
We did attempt to reach out to the Pope County Sheriffs office. We were referred to a department attorney whom we could not get a hold of.