Ayodele have managed financially since Hoston's death.
While Wanda Hoston believed her husband made "some" support contribution on behalf of Curtrina, there has been no evidence of what amounts he contributed at any time for this child.
According to the generalized actuarial tables Hoston, at 28 years of age, had a life expectancy of an additional 39.9 years, with a work-life expectancy of 30.2 years.
This complaint brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., alleges that deputy United States marshals, by use of excessive force, and without justification or excuse, intentionally battered Curtis E. Hoston, Jr., so as to cause his death.
To effect an arrest, "the rule is that an officer has the right to use such force 'as under the circumstances appears reasonably necessary' . . . and . . . the [trier of fact] must judge of the necessity 'in the light of the circumstances as they reasonably appear to the officer at the time.'" Bell v. United States, 102 U.S. App. D.C. 383, 254 F.2d 82, 85 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 885, 3 L. Ed. 2d 113, 79 S. Ct. 126 (1958).
An officer is also justified in using "such force as under the circumstances appears reasonably necessary" to maintain that custody or to prevent an escape. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 134 (1965). However, were a law enforcement officer to use any force in excess of that reasonably necessary to accomplish his lawful purpose (here, to subdue a prisoner), he would be liable for any injuries (or death) and damage suffered as a result thereof. Smith v. District of Columbia, (D.C. App. 1979), 399 A.2d 213; Wade v. District of Columbia (D.C. App. 1973), 310 A.2d 857.
In the instant action, the deputy United States marshals used such force as was reasonably necessary to subdue Curtis E. Hoston, Jr. Hoston had deliberately grabbed the gun of a deputy United States marshal. There can be no doubt of the imminent danger of death or severe bodily harm to every person in the courtroom, and to deputies Burch and Stevenson, in particular, in that body-to-body confrontation, as Hoston struggled determinedly for controlled possession of the weapon.
Can there be any doubt of the duty -- the mandate -- of the deputy United States marshals to maintain custody of their prisoner (Hoston) to prevent him from injuring anyone with the gun, to prevent this defendant (there on a charge of fugitivity) from escaping, and to maintain the security of the courtroom, its personnel, the other defendants and other persons present, including the judge?
Deputy Burch acted swiftly, calmly, and commendably during the struggle with Hoston to uphold these duties. Placing his own person into the closest proximity to death or severe bodily injury, he immediately reacted to the situation by maneuvering Hoston away from the courtroom toward the cellblock to minimize danger to all others and by pointing the pistol at the courtroom ceiling so that no one would be shot if the gun discharged. The ultimate result is that no one was injured when the gun did discharge as Hoston pulled its trigger. Once in the cellblock area behind Courtroom 17, the deputy marshals (Burch and Stevenson initially; later, Burch, Stevenson and Rutherford) again in the compelled avoidance of death or severe bodily injury, had to regain possession of the loaded gun and control of their prisoner. To achieve these purposes, Hoston had to be subdued to force his release from the gun. It is clear he would not release the gun voluntarily. Hoston died when the deputies fell on him accidentally in the continuing effort and struggle to overcome his resistance and to regain control of the gun.
The Court cannot subscribe to plaintiffs' argument that Hoston was subjected to "an unnecessary, willful beating, both during the time that the participants were struggling for control of the weapon and thereafter." See Plaintiff's (sic) Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, at 10.
It was Hoston who incited the events that led to his death and these law enforcement officers used no more than that degree of force necessary to subdue Hoston. Certainly the struggle itself produced its share of injuries: the punch in the face, the hits in the mouth with the slapstick, the kicks in the chin area and chest, resulting in contusions, lacerations and abrasions, and the traumatic avulsion of the incisors. But it cannot be overlooked that those injuries did not contribute to Hoston's death and were not, under the specific circumstances detailed herein, more force than necessary to subdue Hoston and to secure his release of the loaded weapon. The actions of the deputies were in reasonable and essential response to the presenting situation. Those reactions of the deputies were required to protect their lives and/or the lives of others or, at the very least, to prevent severe bodily harm to themselves or others.
Plaintiffs further contend that Hoston, disarmed and incapable of resistance, was assaulted and battered before and during the time he was taken into the cellblock elevator, which beating they say caused his death. Disputing the defendant's witnesses' claim that the heart compression causing death occurred when deputies Burch and Stevenson fell onto Hoston's chest with their combined weight in excess of 500 pounds, at the time those witnesses verified that act happened, plaintiffs argue instead that the fatal injuries were inflicted after Hoston was disarmed and taken to the elevator.
Evaluation of the entire record, including but not limited to the medical evidence (which wholly supported the marshals' version of how the injuries occurred), and consideration of the credibility and weight to be given to the testimony of the plaintiffs' and the defendant's witnesses, leads directly, reasonably and convincingly to the Court's conclusion that the force used by the deputies to subdue Hoston was, under all circumstances herein, essential, and, accordingly, reasonable. Tragically, the final aspect of that force, by which the deputy marshals fell on the chest of the armed defendant-prisoner was a moment of chance that could neither be anticipated nor avoided nor, under the extraordinary situation herein, characterized as excessive force.
It has therefore not been shown by the plaintiffs that the deputy United States marshals committed any tortious act against Curtis E. Hoston, Jr. be that act described as assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress or "outrage". The evidence was otherwise. Convincingly and conclusively, beyond a preponderance of the evidence and indeed well beyond a reasonable doubt, the record and trial demonstrated that plaintiffs did not bear their burden of proof as to liability and are therefore not entitled to recover damages from defendant.
Accordingly, judgment shall be entered this date in favor of the United States of America and against the plaintiffs, Wanda Alexander Hoston, Ayodele O. Hoston and Curtrina Hoston.
In accordance with the Memorandum Opinion issued this date, judgment be and it hereby is entered in favor of the defendant, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and against the plaintiffs, WANDA ALEXANDER HOSTON (as Spouse and Administrator of the Estate of Curtis E. Hoston, Jr.), AYODELE O. HOSTON (a minor, through her mother and next friend, Wanda Alexander Hoston) and CURTRINA HOSTON (a minor, suing either through her next friend Wanda Alexander Hoston or her grandmother, Marietha Brown).