The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a jury's decision to reject a $2 million lawsuit and to absolve a Baltimore police officer of civil liability for shooting and permanently injuring a man during a vice arrest.
The appellate court, in Richmond, Va., rejected arguments by victim Leonard Greenidge that Judge J. Frederick Motz erred during the June 1989 trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by excluding evidence that Officer Ernestine Ruffin violated police procedures.
The shooting occurred May 12, 1988, when Ruffin, on prostitution patrol, approached a Ford Bronco in which a man and a prostitute were engaging in an illegal sex act in the 1300 block of N. Stricker St.
Ruffin testified at the trial last year that she drew her service revolver, rapped on a window of the Bronco and told both occupants to put their hands on the --board.
Instead, Ruffin said, Greenidge reached behind his seat and picked up an object she thought was a shotgun. She fired one shot in self-defense.
The shot struck Greenidge in the face, causing permanent injuries that included partial paralysis and slurred speech. The object he picked up was a nightstick, according to trial testimony.
The jury found Ruffin's action reasonable, even though she ignored standard police procedures by not using a flashlight and by not waiting for backup officers before she made the arrest.
Greenidge also objected to Motz's refusal to allow a videotaped deposition of Ruffin in which a re-enactment of the shooting was to take place.
"We cannot say that the district court erred in exercising its discretion to exclude certain evidence which it believed to be irrelevant," said the 4th Circuit's opinion.
Robert C. Verderaime, Ruffin's defense attorney, said today he is "pleased" with the appellate decision. He said what happened to Greenidge is "unfortunate."