Government

Iowa justices to hear Jerime Mitchell appeal

His lawyers want records Cedar Rapids says are secret

Jerime Mitchell (center) speaks as his mother, Louise Johnson (right), and his wife, Bracken Mitchell (left), look on during a Nov. 4, 2017, event to support him hosted by the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Jerime Mitchell (center) speaks as his mother, Louise Johnson (right), and his wife, Bracken Mitchell (left), look on during a Nov. 4, 2017, event to support him hosted by the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The Iowa Supreme Court has chosen to hear a key dispute in a 2016 Cedar Rapids officer-involved shooting in a special evening session where the public can watch justices in action.

Jerime Mitchell was paralyzed after being shot by Officer Lucas Jones during a traffic stop Nov. 1, 2016, near Coe College.

Authorities said Mitchell tried to flee in his pickup while Jones was caught in its door, and the officer fired to make Mitchell stop.

Mitchell said Jones was the aggressor, and that he got back in his truck because Jones had set a police dog on him.

A police car dashboard camera video later released by police shows Jones, who is white, was in his squad car some distance away from the pickup when he accelerated to catch up to Mitchell, who is black.

After Jones pulled over the truck, things escalated to an altercation between the two.

Mitchell tried to drive away as Jones became stuck in the pickup’s open driver’s door.

Though the video captured images of what happened, Jones’ body microphone was not functioning.

Police later said Mitchell had a pound of marijuana, cash and a scale in his possession.

But police filed no charges against him. And a grand jury declined to file charges against Jones, and he has since returned to duty after being on administrative leave, which is typical procedure while a police shooting is reviewed.

Mitchell filed suit against the city and Jones in February 2017 in Linn County District Court. But the trial date has been bumped to Aug. 11, 2020 — nearly four years after the shooting — and depositions haven’t been taken.

The holdup involves the appeal that the Iowa Supreme Court will hear at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The defendants — the city and Jones — are asking justices to review a ruling by 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady.

In November 2017, Grady ruled the city must turn over to Mitchell’s attorneys any requested law enforcement investigative reports, including electronic recordings and phone communications and interviews or conversations with law enforcement at the scene that are related to the shooting. But he stopped short of requiring the city to turn over any reports or memos used solely for a police internal review.

Mitchell’s attorneys also asked to access documents from the city and the police department over Jones’ involvement in another incident — a 2015 fatal shooting that is the subject of a separate lawsuit in federal court.

The city’s attorney argues that some of the documents related to Mitchell’s shooting and the 2015 shooting shouldn’t be available to the public. The documents involve Jones’ employment, the 2015 shooting, internal reviews and Mitchell’s medical records.

Mitchell’s attorneys argue the police department is funded with taxpayer money and so the public has a right to know how it’s being run.

The city also is asking the justices to consider previous conduct by one of Mitchell’s attorneys, Larry Rogers Jr. of Chicago, who they say will give the confidential records to the media.

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Rogers, the city argues in court documents, already has made comments to the media about the case that “have had or could have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing” the proceedings.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments over that issue during the special evening session.

“The evening session is open to the public and provides an opportunity for Iowa residents, who may not be able to attend the court’s regular morning and afternoon sessions, to watch the court conduct oral arguments,’ a news release said.

The hearing will be held in the Iowa Supreme Court Courtroom on the fourth floor of the Judicial Branch Building, 1111 E. Court Ave. in Des Moines.

The hearing also will be livestreamed online on the court’s YouTube channel. To watch it starting at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday go to youtube.com and search for “Iowa Courts.”

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