- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 6, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal jury ruled Tuesday that a couple and their son failed to prove their claim that a town marshal used excessive force during a 2011 encounter on a street in Dover, but the family didn’t leave the courthouse empty-handed because another defendant reached a $225,000 settlement before jurors announced a verdict.

Ron and Eva Robinson, along with their son Matthew, claimed Dover deputy Steven Payton overreacted after seeing the boy approach his mother while she was walking the family dog. Payton had said that, not knowing their relationship, he had a reason to stop and question them, but that they became defiant and uncooperative.

The family’s attorney, Pat James, said Payton called for backup and one responding officer unnecessarily used a stun gun on the teenager while the two were restrained and arrested.

“It is scary the weight that is given to police officers’ testimony over that of the public,” James said after the verdict. While disappointed, the lawyer said there was some consolation.

“The family had never been able to tell their story and they finally were able to tell their story,” James said. “There is some satisfaction in having had their day in court.”



Prior to the jury returning to the courtroom after a second day of deliberations, James said, details of a $225,000 settlement with law officer Kristopher Stevens were read into the court record. Lawyers for Payton and Stevens did not return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Payton had testified that while on patrol, he saw what appeared to be a large man approaching a small woman and he slowed down to make sure she wasn’t in danger. Payton said he saw the “man” appear to put something in his pocket, reach down and throw something. He said the circumstances of the situation aroused suspicion.

According to Payton, Matthew Robinson and his mother were defiant and uncooperative during the encounter.

In closing arguments, James said the officers were “amped up” and “out of control.” The family sought about $64,000 in medical bills for Matthew Robinson and $1 million in punitive damages to him and his mother.

“Whatever you do is not enough,” James told jurors. “They have lost their innocence.”

Defense lawyers Keith Wren and Burt Newell said in their closing arguments that the Robinsons were the ones out of control. Wren represented Payton and Newell spoke for Stevens.

“If you live in a civilized society, now and then you’ve got to put up with some minimal intrusions by police,” Wren said. “And if you just use your common sense, it’s over in a matter of minutes.”

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