ST. LOUIS • A federal appeals court reversed two of its own judges Monday and said that a civil suit filed by a friend who witnessed the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown should be thrown out.
In a 7-4 ruling, the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals said that both a 2017 ruling by a panel and a lower court judge were wrong to allow the lawsuit by Dorian Johnson to proceed against Ferguson, former police Chief Tom Jackson and former Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown.
Johnson’s attorneys claim Wilson violated the Constitution when he stopped Brown and Johnson, and that he used excessive force when he fatally shot Brown and shot at Johnson and missed. The suit also claims that Wilson’s actions were part of a pattern of misconduct by Ferguson police.
The court said that Johnson was never “seized” for legal purposes. He never submitted to Wilson’s authority, as he only stopped briefly but then ran away.
If Johnson was not “seized,” then the constitutional questions in the case don’t apply, the court said.
The court said U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig should dismiss the suit. Fleissig, and a 2-1 panel of the appeals court, had turned back attempts by the Ferguson defendants to dismiss it and said that the lawsuit should proceed.