© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

US appeals court: Lawsuit against Ferguson, Darren Wilson can go forward

More than a thousand demonstrators gather on Canfield Drive on Aug. 30, 2014 as part of a National March on Ferguson.
File photo | Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio
More than a thousand demonstrators gather on Canfield Drive on Aug. 30, 2014 as part of a National March on Ferguson.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. to correct that the ruling may have violated Johnson's constitutional rights — A federal lawsuit filed by Dorian Johnson against the city of Ferguson, former officer Darren Wilson and former police Chief Thomas Jackson can go forward, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Johnson alleges his civil rights were violated on Aug. 9, 2014, when he and Michael Brown were stopped by Wilson — the beginning of the encounter in which Brown was fatally shot. Johnson’s lawsuit also claims that the Ferguson Police Department “engaged in policies” that violated his rights, such as “failure to train and supervise officers and condoning unconstitutional law-enforcement practices.”

The city, Wilson and Jackson argued they were immune from lawsuits because they were doing their jobs. But the three-judge panel ruled that Wilson may have violated Johnson’s right to be free from unlawful search and seizure because Wilson’s car blocked his path and he was forcefully told to “get … on the sidewalk.”  That meant Johnson was akin to a passenger in a traffic stop who must follow directives, and any force used after that could be found to be unreasonable.

The ruling also noted that Jackson was right to be denied immunity by a lower court because he was “deliberately indifferent to the unconstitutional practices carried out by Ferguson police officers.”

Circuit Judge Roger Wollman dissented, saying that there was no unconstitutional seizure because Johnson ran from Wilson.

Robert Plunkert, the attorney for Wilson and Jackson, said he couldn't comment on a pending lawsuit. The city of Ferguson didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Johnson's attorney didn't immediately have a comment.

The case will return to the U.S. Eastern District of Missouri.

Maria Altman contributed to this report.

This story has been corrected.

Read the decision here: 

This is a developing story.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.