A federal appeals court today upheld the city of San Francisco’s use of a theory known as “suicide by cop” to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the family of a disabled Oakland man killed by police.
Cammerin Boyd, 29, was fatally shot by San Francisco police on May 5, 2004, after a high-speed police chase that followed his alleged attempts to kidnap two women in two separate incidents.
Boyd had lost his legs below the knee as a result of crash in another police chase by the California Highway Patrol 11 years earlier.
City lawyers used the suicide by cop theory, arguing that Boyd may have intentionally drawn deadly police fire, in the city’s defense during a 2007 federal court trial on a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Boyd’s mother and two daughters.
The six-week trial ended in a jury verdict exonerating the city and two officers who pursued Boyd in the police chase.
Boyd’s mother, Marylon Boyd, and daughters then appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
In today’s decision, a three-judge appeals panel said that expert testimony presented by the city on the suicide theory met legal standards for admission of scientific evidence. The court upheld the jury verdict.
Boyd’s family contended that he was trying to surrender when he was shot. The police officers maintained that Boyd, who had shot at them during the chase, appeared to be reaching for a gun when he was stopped in his rented sport utility vehicle in the Western Addition district of the city.
Boyd had several previous run-ins with police, including a police chase in Oakland three days earlier, and was facing charges in a 2003 armed robbery.
The Boyd family’s lawyer in the appeal was not immediately available for comment.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said, “We’re gratified that the 9th Circuit upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the officers.”