Civil Liberties

Dymond Milburn Update


A few updates on Dymond Milburn, the Galveston, Texas girl I posted about last week. Milburn and her family are suing the Galveston Police Department.  They allege that two years ago, several plain-clothes officers jumped out of a van, accosted her in her yard, and assaulted and beat her during a raid in which they mistook her for a prostitute.  She was 12 at the time.  Three weeks later, the police then arrested Milburn at her school in front of her classmates, and charged her with assaulting the police officers who were wrongfully arresting her.  Her father has also been charged with assault.

The updates:

• There's been some chatter on various blogs and message boards that the story may be a hoax. While I'm sure the police account of the incidents differs from that of Milburn, her family, and her attorney, the lawsuit itself is real. Here's a copy (pdf) of the complaint. And here's a record of the filing in federal court.

• The Galveston Daily News picked up the story this morning. They're reporting that Galveston police and the district attorney's office can't comment on the case because Milburn is a juvenile.  Neither office has returned my calls, either. The attorney for the officers Milburn is suing did give the following statement to the Houston Press:

"The father basically attacked police officers as they were trying to take the daughter into custody after she ran off."

"The city has investigated the matter and found that the conduct of the police officers was appropriate under the circumstances.  It's unfortunate that sometimes police officers have to use force against people who are using force against them. And the evidence will show that both these folks violated the law and forcefully resisted arrest."

As far as I can tell, Texas does appear to allow for a citizen to resist an unlawful arrest if the arrest meets certain conditions:

Texas Penal Code Chapter 9, Subchapter C, Section 9.31, Subsection C:

(c) The use of force to resist an arrest or search is justified: (1) if, before the actor offers any resistance, the peace officer (or person acting at his direction) uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest or search; and (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the peace officer's (or other person's) use or attempted use of greater force than necessary. 

Even setting aside the severe beating Milburn's lawsuit says she received at the hands of the police (which is presumably backed by records from the hospital she was admitted to later that night), you're left with several plain-clothes police officers jumping out of an unmarked van, calling a 12-year-old girl a prostitute, then attempting to snatch her from her own front yard. I would think that those actions alone would satisfy the "greater force than necessary" portion of the statute.

• It looks like one of the officers named in Mlburn's lawsuit, Officer Sean Stewart, was named a Galveston PD "Officer of the Year" last June.  See page five, here (pdf).