Jury finds Riverside County not liable in excessive force lawsuit

LOS ANGELES - A federal jury has found that Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputies did not cause the death of a mentally disturbed man who died in 2010 after being restrained, attorneys said Friday.

Carole Krechman brought the lawsuit against the county and four of its deputies, alleging constitutional violations and negligence on behalf of her late son, Robert Albert Appel.

The 48-year-old man died after police tussled with him while he was in the midst of a delusional episode in a Palm Desert gated community, according to the complaint.

A Los Angeles federal jury found late Wednesday that three of the four deputies -- Robert Garcia, Sean Dusek and Edward Chacon -- did not use excessive force and although deputy Martin Alfaro did, his actions did not cause the death, defense attorney Bruce Disenhouse said.

Krechman called the verdict ``a travesty of justice,'' adding that she was not entirely surprised by the outcome.

``In today's climate where violence is so prevalent, people are afraid of the military-type police we have,'' she said. ``I think the jury was willing to overlook the facts.''

Krechman, founder-president of the Peacemaker Corps Association, an organization dedicated to teaching peace around the world, said she would carry on working in her son's memory.

A federal appellate panel reinstated the suit last July after it was determined that U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who presided over a previous trial on the lawsuit, ``improperly'' relied on his personal experience as a former policeĀ  officer when he ruled for Riverside County after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

``This was a very emotional case for Mrs. Krechman and it's the kind of case where everyone agreed it was tragic,'' Disenhouse said. ``It was a trial that certainly we did not want, but we believe the jury accurately assessed the facts and came to the correct conclusion about whether the conduct was appropriate.''

A Riverside County coroner classified the death as a homicide, finding that Appel's heart was enlarged, papers show.

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