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Garressa Smith As Administratrix and Prosequendum v. Officer Dean Grandsen

December 10, 2012

GARRESSA SMITH AS ADMINISTRATRIX AND PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF KASHON SMITH, A MINOR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER DEAN GRANDSEN, ET AL.,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

IRENAS, Senior District Judge:

Following a ten-day trial, on October 19, 2012, the jury returned a verdict of no cause for Defendants Dean Gransden and Jeffrey Frampton in an action brought by Plaintiff Garressa Smith alleging that the Defendants violated the constitutional rights of her son, Kashon Smith. The jury found that Gransden did not "violate[] Kashon Smith's constitutional right not to be subjected to excessive force" and was not "deliberately indifferent to Kashon Smith's risk of serious medical harm." The jury also found that Frampton was not "deliberately indifferent to Kashon Smith's risk of serious medical harm [nor] did he cause other City of Camden police officers to be deliberately indifferent to that risk." Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, a new trial, solely with respect to Defendant Frampton. For the reasons set forth within, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

I.

The Court will provide a short summary of the facts presented to the jury in reaching their verdict, focusing on those pertinent to Plaintiff's claims against Frampton. On December 21, 2007, Plaintiff's son, Kashon Smith, was shot two times by Defendant Gransden outside 200 Pfeiffer Street, Camden, NJ. Kashon died just after midnight on December 22, 2007.

After the shooting occurred, several Camden City police officers responded, including Defendant Frampton, who was the first supervisor to arrive at the scene. Frampton was the crime scene supervisor. When he arrived, Frampton saw Gransden handcuffing Kashon Smith's hands behind his back while Kashon lay face down on the ground.

The scene where the shooting took place was chaotic. In addition to a crowd of between 50 to 100 area residents, approximately 42 law enforcement officers and medical personnel were present at the scene. Many of the residents were yelling and screaming. Further, members of Kashon's family were trying to reach him and had to be physically restrained by police officers. At the same time, the officers were trying to seal off the crime scene and preserve evidence. Because of the large number of people there, Frampton requested that more officers be sent to the scene.

When Frampton arrived at 200 Pfeiffer Street, Kashon was conscious. Frampton knew that Kashon had been shot and could see him moving and moaning. Frampton observed that Kashon was breathing the entire time between when he arrived and when the paramedics arrived. During this period, Frampton did not provide any first aid to Kashon, did he touch Kashon, and did not order any other officer to provide first aid to Kashon. In fact, none of the Camden police officers provided aid to Kashon.

At trial, there was conflicting testimony from the paramedics who responded to the shooting. One paramedic, Brian Rowe, testified that Kashon was breathing normally when he arrived and that he did not see any obstructions in Kashon's airway. According to Rowe, Kashon's condition and breathing did not change from the time Rowe first examined him until his arrival at Cooper University Hospital. Although Rowe testified that he tried to intubate Kashon, he later clarified that an intubation was not necessary to insure that Kashon was breathing but rather would have acted as a preventative measure should Kashon's airways have become obstructed.

The other paramedic, Marilyn Rodriguez, testified that Kashon was lying face down in mulch, that his airway was blocked with dirt and mulch, and that he was having difficulty breathing. She further stated that she had to clear his airways and provide him with oxygen manually. Contrary to Rowe's testimony, Rodriguez said that Smith was breathing minimally in the ambulance.

Both paramedics agreed that Kashon's handcuffs remained on while he was in the ambulance and that no police officer accompanied the paramedics in the ambulance when they transported Kashon to the hospital. The City of Camden had a policy that required a police officer to accompany an arrestee in an ambulance, but that policy was not followed. Instead, police officers met the ambulance at the hospital, and Kashon's handcuffs were removed soon after he arrived there.

According to Dr. Edward S. Chmara, the forensic pathologist who conducted Kashon's autopsy, Kashon died from the two gunshot wounds. Dr. Chmara further noted that there was no evidence of asphyxiation nor was there any evidence that Kashon's airways had been blocked.

Plaintiff, Garressa Smith, filed this suit, alleging that Defendant Gransden used excessive force when he shot Kashon. She also alleged that both Gransden and Frampton were deliberately indifferent to Kashon's medical needs and that Frampton was liable for the deliberate indifference of other Camden police officers. The jury returned a verdict of no cause for both defendants on all counts.

Smith has filed this post-trial motion seeking judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, a new trial solely with respect to her ...


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