Suit over Palm Desert detention death revived

PALM DESERT, Calif. - A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated an excessive-force lawsuit against Riverside County involving the death of a mentally disturbed man after he was restrained by Palm Desert police.

The lawsuit was brought by the mother of 48-year-old Robert Albert Appel, who died in 2010 after police responding to a 911 call found him incoherent in his driveway and attempted to take him into custody, kneeling on him as he thrashed about.

After the jury deadlocked, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II ruled in favor of the county, which provides police services to Palm Desert.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said Thursday that evidence suggested that Wright improperly relied on his personal experience as a former police officer and not on testimony.

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