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Boyd v. City and County of San Francisco

August 7, 2009

MARYLON MARIE BOYD, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF CAMMERIN BOYD, DECEASED; ISABEL GONZALEZ, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HER GUARDIAN AD LITEM, ISELA GONZALEZ; KANANI BOYD, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HER GUARDIAN AD LITEM, KAMILAH BOYD, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO; HEATHER J. FONG; JAMES O'MALLEY; TIMOTHY PAINE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Maxine M. Chesney, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CV-04-05459-MMC.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted July 14, 2009 -- San Francisco, California.

Before: Barry G. Silverman, Richard R. Clifton and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Plaintiffs-Appellants Marylon Marie Boyd, Isabel Gonzales, and Kanani Boyd (the Boyd Family), who are the mother and daughters of Cammerin Boyd (Cammerin), appeal the district court's judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees, the City and County of San Francisco and police officers James O'Malley and Timothy Paine (collectively, San Francisco). The Boyd Family alleges that the district court's erroneous admission of irrelevant and prejudicial evidence tainted the jury's verdict such that reversal is warranted. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Cammerin was shot and killed by Officer Paine of the San Francisco Police Department on May 5, 2004. Earlier that evening, Cammerin had attempted two separate kidnappings within minutes of each other. He first assaulted Tiffany Williams and then Tatanika Hogan at gunpoint, instructing each woman to get into his car. Both women resisted and fled. After escaping from Cammerin, Hogan promptly contacted a police officer, who reported the incident over the radio and began to pursue the sports utility vehicle (SUV) Cammerin was driving,*fn1 resulting in a high-speed chase through a San Francisco neighborhood. During the chase, Cammerin leaned out the window of the SUV and fired twice at the pursuing officers. Officer Paine, who joined the pursuit, fired back at Cammerin's SUV as it drove past, hitting the front hood.

Cammerin finally stopped his vehicle on Larch Way in San Francisco and was quickly surrounded by San Francisco police officers, who approached the vehicle with their guns drawn. The police ordered Cammerin out of the vehicle and, when he emerged, commanded him to put his hands up and get down on the ground. Witnesses testified that Cammerin put his hands up but did not get on the ground; instead, he walked towards the officers and then back to the SUV. When Officer Paine perceived that Cammerin did not comply fully with the commands, but instead reached back into the vehicle, Officer Paine fired three times, striking Cammerin twice and fatally wounding him.

About two weeks prior to Cammerin's death, Oakland police performed an investigative stop on Cammerin's vehicle and searched its interior. During that search, they discovered rap lyrics along with a newspaper article regarding the murder of an Oakland police officer. The rap lyrics, which Cammerin acknowledged were his, advocated prostitution and the murder of police officers.

On May 2, three days before the shooting, Oakland police had arrested Cammerin for recklessly driving Marylon Boyd's new Mercedes through the city streets. The officers had ordered Cammerin out of the car and commanded him to show his hands and get down on the ground, all of which he did without assistance, despite the fact that he had two prosthetic legs. Cammerin's lower legs were amputated following a car crash in 1993, in which Cammerin ran into a light pole after attempting to evade a California highway patrol officer by speeding off the freeway with his lights extinguished. During the May 2 arrest, Cammerin struggled with the officers during handcuffing, repeatedly screaming at them to "kill me," and calling them "filthy white racists."

The Boyd Family sued San Francisco for Cammerin's death, claiming excessive use of force.*fn2 In its defense, San Francisco presented the expert testimony of Dr. Emily Keram, a forensic psychiatrist. Dr. Keram testified that her analysis of the circumstances surrounding Cammerin's death led her to conclude that he had been attempting to commit "suicide by cop," and had purposefully drawn police fire to accomplish this result. The Boyd Family objected to the admission of Dr. Keram's expert testimony, and to other evidence regarding Cammerin's past. Following a six-week trial and three hours of deliberation, a jury ruled in favor of the defendants. The Boyd Family appeals the resultant judgment to this court on the basis that the district court abused its discretion in allowing the admission of improper evidence at trial.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review a district court's decision to admit evidence under an abuse of discretion standard. See Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152 (1999); United States v. Curtin, 489 F.3d 935, 943 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc).*fn3 We do not reverse the district court's decisions under an abuse of discretion standard unless we are "convinced firmly that the reviewed decision lies beyond the pale of reasonable justification under the circumstances." Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir. 2000). A party seeking reversal for evidentiary error must show that the error was prejudicial, and that the ...


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