A federal appeals court has cleared the way for two cousins who were victims of evidence planting by Douglas County's former CSI director to argue their civil rights cases at trial.
Thursday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minn., affirmed a lower court's ruling from 2011 in cases filed by Matt Livers and Nick Sampson. Attorneys for the Cass County Sheriff's Office and Nebraska State Patrol failed to convince the appeals court that officials were entitled to “qualified immunity,” which shields government officials from civil lawsuits.
In 2010, a judge in a criminal trial convicted then-CSI chief David Kofoed of tampering with evidence in the murder case of Murdock farmers Wayne and Sharmon Stock. The judge concluded that Kofoed planted blood in a car to bolster the case against Livers and Sampson, several weeks before the real killers were discovered.
The appeals court said that based on some of the evidence, jurors could infer that some or all of the defendants in the civil lawsuits “coerced Livers' confession, fabricated evidence against Livers and Sampson, and arrested them without probable cause,” the court stated.
However, the appeals court dismissed Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning as a defendant, saying he was entitled to qualified immunity against claims that he failed to train and failed to properly supervise Kofoed.
Dunning had cleared Kofoed as part of an internal investigation into the evidence planting allegations.
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