635 F.2d 330 (5th Cir. 1981), 79-1137, Keyes v. Lauga

Docket Nº:79-1137.
Citation:635 F.2d 330
Party Name:Mrs. Christine KEYES, Wife of/and Thomas Keyes, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Ray LAUGA et al., Defendants-Appellants, Office of Charity Hospital of Louisiana at New Orleans, Intervenor.
Case Date:January 26, 1981
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 330

635 F.2d 330 (5th Cir. 1981)

Mrs. Christine KEYES, Wife of/and Thomas Keyes, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Ray LAUGA et al., Defendants-Appellants,

Office of Charity Hospital of Louisiana at New Orleans, Intervenor.

No. 79-1137.

Unit A

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 26, 1981

Page 331

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 332

A. W. Wambsgans, Metairie, La., for defendants-appellants.

Minge & Batiza, James H. Minge, New Orleans, La., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before WISDOM, AINSWORTH and GEE, Circuit Judges.

WISDOM, Circuit Judge:

Mrs. Christine Keyes, the appellee, and her husband, Thomas Keyes, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to recover for injuries they suffered, during and after their arrest, at the hands of several deputies of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Department. They joined as defendants Deputies Ray Lauga and Henry Bonds, Sheriff Jack Rowley, and the Department's insurer, North River Insurance Company. During the trial, the district court directed a verdict dismissing all claims against the sheriff and all of Mr. Keyes's claims against the remaining defendants. A jury found for Mrs. Keyes on her remaining claims, concluding that the deputies had unconstitutionally searched and arrested her, had used excessive force in making the arrest, and had beaten her after making the arrest. The jury awarded $75,000 in damages, $37,500 from each deputy, and defendants now appeal.

I.

At about 5:00 a. m. on September 1, 1977, Deputies Lauga and Bonds appeared at the Keyes's residence in Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish to execute warrants for the arrest of Peter Keyes, Sr. and Peter Keyes, Jr. 1 When Mr. Keyes refused to submit to arrest, Lauga and Bonds called for help. Seeing a large number of deputies arrive with weapons drawn, and fearing for the safety of their children, Mr. and Mrs. Keyes left the house. Mr. Keyes was immediately placed under arrest and put into a police

Page 333

car. Told by her husband to call the sheriff, Mrs. Keyes returned to her home to use the telephone.

The events that then ensued are in dispute. The testimony of Mrs. Keyes, which the jury obviously credited, was that Lauga, Bonds and at least one other deputy followed her into the house uninvited. They made a quick search of the premises and, without telling her that she was under arrest, kicked her and beat her with nightsticks. After being subdued she was placed in a police car with her husband, driven to the St. Bernard Parish Jail, and booked on charges of disturbing the peace, assaulting a police officer, and resisting arrest. On the way to jail, and again after she was placed in her cell, Bonds and Lauga again beat her with their fists and nightsticks. 2

The testimony of Lauga and Bonds differs in every material respect. They gave several reasons for their uninvited entry into the Keyes's home: they had heard a shotgun being "cranked" and feared for their personal safety; they thought that Peter Keyes, Jr., for whom they also had an arrest warrant, might be inside; and they supposedly heard Mrs. Keyes yell, "Ellis, blow their f'ing heads off. Shoot them." They testified that, once inside, they arrested Mrs. Keyes because she was yelling obscenities at them. They denied that they or any deputy ever beat her or used any force other than that necessary to overcome her resistance to the arrest.

II.

The defendants mount several challenges to the judgment that can be disposed of briefly. They first assert that the court committed reversible error by failing to ask some of their proposed questions on voir dire, by failing to give certain requested jury charges, and by failing to use their proposed interrogatories on the special verdict form used by the jury in reaching its decision.

Rulings on the scope of voir dire are committed to the discretion of the trial court and the failure to ask particular questions proposed by the parties is not grounds for reversal absent a showing of error and prejudice. See Louisville & Nashville R. R. v. Williams, 5 Cir. 1966, 370 F.2d 839, 841-42 & n.5. In their brief on appeal the defendants do not even specify which of their rejected voir dire questions supply the basis for their claim of error. The transcript of the trial does not include the voir dire examination. We thus have no basis on which to evaluate this asserted error.

The defendants' objections both to the judge's instructions and to the special interrogatories are more to their form than to their content. The trial judge has considerable latitude in framing his instructions to the jury...

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