Days after former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced following his conviction for George Floyd’s murder last year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up a case involving an individual who died under somewhat similar circumstances in St. Louis, Missouri.
In an announcement on Monday, the nation’s highest court revealed that it would consider Lombardo v. City of St. Louis, thus vacating an early appeals court ruling.
Background on the case
The case hinges on the 2015 death of Nicholas Gilbert while he was in the custody of St. Louis police.
Reports show the suspect had been cuffed and restrained when multiple officers placed him in a prone position and applied pressure for about 15 minutes, during which time he died.
An unsigned 6-3 order this week laid out the important details of the claim, particularly that Gilbert was arrested on suspicion of trespassing and allegedly attempted suicide while in a holding cell. That act allegedly prompted action from officers, ostensibly to prevent him from injuring himself.
In the process, Gilbert is accused of resisting the officers, leading as many as six officers to forcibly hold him down.
During the time he was being restrained, the inmate reportedly stopped breathing. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was declared dead en route to a local hospital.
“Facts and circumstances”
Gilbert’s parents subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that excessive force was used in his restraint and that his civil rights were violated.
The majority Supreme Court decision noted that a district court sided with the officers and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling on different grounds, determining that the officers did not use excessive force.
Nevertheless, that ruling took issue with the manner by which the appeals court reached its determination. Justices did not take a stance on either side of the underlying dispute, however.
Instead, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts for further inquiry into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding Gilbert’s death before the high court takes up the case itself.
Kevin Carnie Jr., the attorney representing Gilbert’s parents, said that the decision “shows that the Supreme Court, like the rest of the country, is interested in addressing the problems that our country is facing with police community relations and excessive force” and reveals “an interest in fixing the problems that we are facing right now.”