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Humboldt State Murder Suspect’s $776,300 Award Overturned
The jury finds that the prosecution was malicious, but the judge concludes that there was probable cause to arrest the defendant.
A young man who claimed that a police officer manufactured evidence to arrest him on suspicion of murdering another Humboldt State University student outside of a party was awarded more than $775,000 by a jury; however, the judge ruled that the judgment should be reversed.
Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled on Monday that a “reasonable officer in [that] situation would have believed there was a fair probability” that the plaintiff, Kyle Zoellner, had stabbed David Josiah Lawson outside of the Arcata house party on April 15, 2017. The incident took place on April 15, 2017.
The decision made by a jury in a federal court in San Francisco the previous week was overturned due to her ruling. It had given economic damages to Zoellner for $726,300 and punitive damages for $50,000.
In the lawsuit for defamation, the jury stated that they concluded that Arcata police detective Eric Losey “was actively involved in causing Zoellner to be charged,” that he behaved maliciously, and that Zoellner was hurt as a result of his actions. However, as the jury is not authorized to consider issues about probable cause, the judge was responsible for making the ultimate determination.
Losey stated in his arrest report that several witnesses reported that Zoellner was involved in the fight that left Lawson dead and that one witness specifically named Zoellner as the combatant who stabbed Lawson. Losey also stated that Zoellner was named as the combatant who stabbed Lawson by another witness. The next step was for Losey to notify the prosecuting attorneys that, before the preliminary hearing, he had listened to a recording of the interview and discovered that the witness had never honestly disclosed Zoellner’s name. Read more: Bob Williams Nasa Engineer: an Old Interview With a Nasa Medalist Who Spent $50,000 on Crack Becomes Viral
After the preliminary hearing, the court decided that there was insufficient evidence to try Zoellner. A grand jury eventually chose not to indict him because there was insufficient evidence. No one else was ever apprehended in connection with the murder.
Zoellner, who was 23 years old at his arrest, was working as a chef for a catering firm. Even though he hadn’t planned to go, he ended up going because he needed to pick up his girlfriend. Lawson, a sophomore in high school who was 19 years old, was stabbed to death with a kitchen knife after an argument broke out about their girlfriend’s missing phone, which sparked violent altercations involving other men and women. Read more: Groovy Reacts to Rico Swavey’s Death Shares Last Moment Together
Following the dismissal of the charges, Zoellner filed a lawsuit against the city of Arcata, Losey, and many other members of the police department. In March, a federal judge in San Francisco decided that just one issue would be heard in court, and that was the accusation that Losey had engaged in malicious prosecution.
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