Houston police not held responsible in domestic abuse case

BY admin

February 06 2004 1:00 AM ET

A federal judge in Texas has for the second time dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Houston police ignored the pleas of a gay man later shot to death by his lover, the Houston Chronicle reports. The plaintiff's attorney and a leader of Houston's gay community blasted the opinion. U.S. district judge Melinda Harmon on Monday granted the city's motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it failed to prove that police violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against the victims of domestic violence. The plaintiff "has provided absolutely no evidence showing any disparate treatment between homosexuals and similarly situated non-homosexuals," Harmon wrote.

"I think the judge doesn't understand what the equal protection clause is all about," the plaintiff's attorney, Robert Rosenberg, said on Tuesday, according to the Chronicle. "There seemed to be a nasty tone to this whole thing."

In her opinion, Harmon appeared to chastise Rosenberg several times. In referring to her review of the case, the judge noted, "And in effect doing much of the plaintiff's counsel's work for him." The decision also was criticized by Ray Hill, a radio talk-show host and a prominent member of the gay community. "She has a history of protecting government from complaints by citizens," Hill told the Chronicle. "It basically means that no matter how hard you try to get protection from the authorities in a situation where domestic violence is a high risk, the city is under no obligation to respond, if Judge Harmon is correct."

The lawsuit was filed in 2000 by Gloria Swidriski, whose son, Marc Kajs, was shot to death March 29, 1998, in full view of patrons of the restaurant where he worked, by Ilhan Yilmaz, his former lover. Yilmaz then fatally shot himself. The lawsuit alleged that Kajs had sought protection from police several times before the shooting but was turned away by officers, who didn't make a report, as required by HPD policy. Police discriminate against victims of domestic violence by failing to protect them while protecting victims of violent crimes, the suit claimed. Harmon dismissed the lawsuit March 28, 2000, but the fifth U.S. circuit court of appeals reversed her dismissal of the equal protection claims. The court upheld her dismissal of claims that police failed to follow due process.

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