Dis­abled man can sue county

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kirk Mitchell

The 10th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals has ruled that a de­vel­op­men­tally dis­abled man can sue Dou­glas County and five de­tec­tives and in­ves­ti­ga­tors for a false ar­rest in a rape case in 2009.

The Den­ver fed­eral court up­held a Dou­glas County District Court rul­ing, de­ter­min­ing that qual­i­fied im­mu­nity laws didn’t shield deputies who ar­rested Tyler Sanchez from be­ing sued.

Sanchez had sued the de­tec­tives and the Dou­glas County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment, al­leg­ing that he was charged even though they knew his con­fes­sion was un­true.

The court ruled that a “cause of ac­tion” ex­isted on the ba­sis of ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion. The 10th Cir­cuit de­ci­sion Mon­day al­lows Sanchez’s law­suit to go for­ward.

“Mr. Sanchez’s fac­tual al­le­ga­tions are suf­fi­cient to over­come qual­i­fied im­mu­nity at the plead­ings stage,” the rul­ing says.

The ap­peals court ruled that it lacked ju­ris­dic­tion on an­other claim by de­fen­dants: that the statute of lim­i­ta­tion for ap­peal had lapsed.

Over the span of 17 hours on July 17, 2009, the 18-yearold dis­abled man con­fessed to tres­pass­ing, but not to the sex­ual as­sault of an 8year-old girl dur­ing a bur­glary a week ear­lier.

The case lacked phys­i­cal ev­i­dence, and Sanchez didn’t match the vic­tim’s de­scrip­tion of the as­sailant.

The girl de­scribed her at­tacker as be­ing roughly 40 years old, weigh­ing 190 pounds, with no tat­toos and with brown hair parted in the middle. But Sanchez was a teen, weighed 130 pounds, had prom­i­nent tat­toos on both arms, and had red hair in a buzz cut, the rul­ing says.

Sanchez had pro­nounced cog­ni­tive dis­abil­i­ties and scored in the 60s and 70s on IQ tests. He re­peat­edly told in­ter­roga­tors that he was tired while his eyes were closed. He had been awake for 30 hours by the end of the in­ter­views.

Sanchez was un­able to give any de­tails re­gard­ing his in­volve­ment in the crime. In­stead, he sim­ply agreed to the de­tails sug­gested to him. At one point, he agreed to an un­true de­tail that the in­ves­ti­ga­tor had posed, the 10th Cir­cuit rul­ing says.

The two de­tec­tives asked Sanchez if he was sim­ply say­ing what they wanted to hear and one of them wrote that Sanchez had dif­fi­culty re­mem­ber­ing de­tails of his sup­posed crimes and had given vague an­swers.

Fur­ther­more, DNA found on the vic­tim’s un­der­wear wasn’t his, and the litany of other break-ins he con­fessed to even­tu­ally were pinned on other peo­ple.

“Mr. Sanchez al­leges that his con­fes­sion was false, ex­plain­ing that he con­fessed only be­cause his dis­abil­i­ties pre­vented him from un­der­stand­ing what was hap­pen­ing dur­ing the in­ter­views,” the writ­ten ap­peals court rul­ing says. “A sub­se­quent med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion sup­ported Mr. Sanchez’s ex­pla­na­tion, and the district at­tor­ney dropped the charges in April 2012.”

His de­fense at­tor­ney, Iris Ey­tan, has said Sanchez’s case un­der­scores the need for train­ing for law en­force­ment of­fi­cials in how to deal with sus­pects who have dis­abil­i­ties.

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