A notorious 2008 #murder could leave #DC officials liable for negligence damages, under a court ruling Tuesday.
In the 14-page decision, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts declined to dismiss the negligence claim against the D.C. government filed by the victim's mother, saying that it was at least "plausible" enough to pursue.
The murder victim, Tiffany Gates-Jackson, was slain though she was supposed to be under law enforcement protection for her help in the arson prosecution of Roderick Ridley, her former boyfriend. After being incarcerated, Ridley subsequently escaped from a halfway house. There then transpired a horrible sequence of events, briefly recounted in the Monday decision by U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts.
On Nov. 21, 2008, Gates-Jackson telephoned 911 because she saw Ridley near her apartment. She called a U.S. Marshals Service inspector named Hoffmaster, who began driving to her aid. Then, the judge recounted:
"After Inspector Hoffmaster arrived at Gates-Jackson's apartment and was parked outside, Gates-Jackson told Hoffmaster that she needed immediate assistance because Ridley was kicking down her apartment door. Hoffmaster waited outside Gates-Jackson's apartment for (police) backup. Over the phone, Hoffmaster heard Ridley kick down Gates-Jackson's door and physically attack her. Gates-Jackson died from Ridley's beating."
The mother, Vanessa Gates, initially sued both the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, claiming the agencies had negligently failed to meet their law enforcement duties by letting Ridley escape and by failing to protect Tiffany.
Here's where the case gets interesting, above and beyond the gruesome facts. To be deemed negligent, one must have a duty of care; and when the harm is caused by the criminal act of another, the criminal act must itself be highly foreseeable.
And, in fact, Judge Roberts reasoned, the District "should have been aware and did demonstrate awareness of the danger" that Ridley would come after the woman who had helped convict him.
Ridley was subsequently convicted of 26 counts relating to events surrounding Gates-Jackson's death, though the first jury did not reach a verdict on the felony murder charge.