Court reinstates $300K award for Narragansett man

A Rhode Island state trooper used excessive force when he broke the ankle of a Narragansett tribal member during the state's violent raid of the reservation, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.

In a 2-1 decision, the court reinstated a $301,000 jury award to Adam Jennings. The judges said trooper Kenneth Jones violated Jennings' constitutional rights during the July 14, 2003, raid of the tribal smokeshop.

A jury had sided with Jennings but U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres threw out the award as a matter of law, ruling in part that Jones was entitled to qualified immunity as a law enforcement officer.

The 1st Circuit disagreed with how Torres handled the case, including his failure to rule on certain motions. As a matter of law, the court said Jones was not entitled to immunity, so it looked at his conduct and determined that he used excessive force.

"In this case, the only view of the evidence consistent with the principle that we take the facts in the light most favorable to the jury verdict is that Jones increased the force he used to restrain Jennings after Jennings had ceased to resist and after Jennings had announced his prior ankle injury. That increased use of force broke Jennings' ankle," wrote Judges Kermit V. Lipez and Juan R. Torruella.

The state could ask for a rehearing before a court that has repeatedly considered cases affecting the Narragansett Tribe. In a separate lawsuit over the raid of the reservation, Lipez and Torruella were the only two judges who sided with the tribe and ruled that the state violated the tribe's sovereignty.

Judge Sandra L. Lynch, who filed a dissent, had ruled against the tribe in the state raid case. She also sits on the panel that heard the tribe's land-into-trust case in January, during which Lipez and Torruella appeared sympathetic to the tribe.

Get the Story:
Tribal member wins on appeal (The Providence Journal 3/8)
Appeals court reinstates award to Narragansett tribal member (AP 3/8)

Excessive Force Decision:
Jennings v. Pare (March 7, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Narragansett Tribe -

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