Judge throws out lawsuit against city on death of Berkeley resident Kayla Moore in police custody

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Catherine Wallin/File

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Citing a lack of evidence, a U.S. District Court judge threw out a lawsuit last week against the city of Berkeley that followed the in-custody death of Berkeley resident Kayla Moore.

In 2014, Arthur Moore sued the city for allegedly violating the rights of his daughter, who died in Berkeley Police Department custody the year prior. Arthur Moore’s attorney, Adante Pointer, said there are plans to appeal this decision.

Kayla Moore’s death sparked major protests in Berkeley throughout the years, as rallying cries against police brutality have continued to spread throughout the country.

Judge Charles Breyer said in his ruling that any juror would not find enough evidence in what was presented to find that a violation of Kayla Moore’s rights had taken place.

“Having carefully reviewed the parties’ briefs, the Court concludes that no reasonable juror could find that Mr. Moore has met his burden of proving that the City failed to reasonably accommodate Ms. Moore, or that it effected a discriminatory arrest,” the ruling read.

According to the complaint filed by Pointer and John Burris — the attorneys representing Arthur Moore — on the night of Feb. 12, 2013, officers arrived at the apartment of Kayla Moore, an individual with a “well-documented history” of paranoid schizophrenia, after her friend called requesting mental health assistance for her.

Kayla Moore was then arrested by six Berkeley Police Department officers — a complaint was filed that alleges unjustifiable “severe psychological and physiological trauma” by the officers. After a struggle to handcuff her, she stopped breathing and became unconscious.

The officers then removed the handcuffs from Kayla Moore’s wrists and began chest compressions without airway breathing. The complaint alleged that her status as a transgender woman was a factor in the officers’ refusal to perform CPR properly.

The coroner listed Kayla Moore’s cause of death as “acute combined drug intoxication with a contribution from morbid obesity and intrinsic cardiovascular disease,” while the complaint alleged that she died because of the officers’ alleged “unwarranted and excessive use of force.”

Breyer said in the ruling that the court initially found triable issues in the two Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, violations proposed by Arthur Moore: that the officers mistook Kayla Moore’s disability for a crime and that they did not reasonably accommodate this disability during arrest.

Breyer’s final judgement said, however, that he did not feel Arthur Moore would be able to bring forward enough evidence for a jury to find that BPD violated the ADA by mistakenly arresting Kayla Moore because they saw the effects of her disability as a criminal act.

Breyer claimed that the officers had decided to arrest Moore on a 5150 hold — an involuntary three-day hold for mental health evaluation — and an outstanding arrest warrant that was made before they came in physical contact with her. Breyer claimed that for these reasons, Moore’s arrest was not discriminatory, because the choice to arrest her was not made in response to her resisting restraint.

“Ms. Moore has been widely mourned, and her death has been a rallying cry for reform in the way municipalities handle crisis response for the mentally ill. Nothing in this order is meant to discourage those efforts,” Breyer wrote in his report. “That said, courts can only rely on the evidence the parties put in front of them.”

Pointer said he felt the judge had acted in a way that is consistent with the current Supreme Court, which he said defends the actions of police officers and takes the outraged community members out of the decision-making process.

“The family is disappointed that the judge prevented a jury from hearing all the facts and was unwilling to give the family the opportunity to present (the case) to the public, which was what they wanted all along,” Pointer said, adding that the family did not want the lawsuit to be “swept under the rug” by a single judge.

Kate Tinney is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @K_Tinney.