A federal jury in Rome, Ga., rejected Thursday a Rossville man’s claim his civil rights were violated when Walker County deputies searched his home without a warrant.
“This country is in trouble. When (police) can break into your home and a jury goes along with it, there is something wrong,” said Floyd Dennis Manning.
He asked for $800,000 in damages from the county in his federal lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said, “This was a big victory for the county.”
He said at the time his officers searched the Robin Lane home on Aug. 31, 2004, deputies had an arrest warrant for a felon who had been seen earlier with Mr. Manning’s son.
The felon was not found during the search, but he was later apprehended, the sheriff said.
Sheriff Wilson said deputies did not violate Mr. Manning’s Fourth Amendment right protecting him from unlawful searches and seizures. He said it took the jury 20 minutes of deliberation to rule in the county’s favor.
Sheriff Wilson said deputies entered Mr. Manning’s home because there were “exigent circumstances,” a legal term that includes the perceived threat of danger or the possibility a suspect will escape.
“We never denied being in the home,” Sheriff Wilson said. “The Fourth Amendment does allow officers under exigent circumstances to enter a residence for a lot of different reasons, and that was our entire defense throughout the case.”
Mr. Manning said he wasn’t home when police entered, but he arrived about 20 minutes after a neighbor called his cell phone and told him about the search. He said his son, Kevin, worked as a roofer with the man police were seeking, but said they were unaware the man had a criminal background.
“I guess it’s guilt by association,” Mr. Manning said.
His lawsuit also challenged the sheriff’s department warrant and search policies. The complaint states, “The warrantless intrusion and invasion of (his) home was and is the official policy of the sheriff.”
Sheriff Wilson said the process for serving arrest warrants will not change.
“The judge ruled that our policy and procedure was constitutionally sound, and that was also a big verdict for us,” he said.
Mr. Manning said he is unsure if he will appeal.