A decision on whether the civil suit filed by the family of slain honors student Robert Cameron Redus against the University of the Incarnate Word and UIW police officer Christopher Carter should be heard in federal or state court was not made during a hearing Monday morning. Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra scheduled another hearing for Tuesday, Nov. 25, to allow time for Redus Family attorneys to respond to a case-law argument made by UIW attorneys.
Ezra assured those gathered in the courtroom that he will issue a ruling during that hearing that will start at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom #5 at the U.S. District Courthouse, 655 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. Until this ruling is made, he said, neither court will hear arguments about a motion filed by UIW to keep the public from accessing an audio recording of the altercation between Redus and Carter in the minutes leading up to the student’s fatal off-campus shooting by the UIW officer.
Discussion about the recording – which includes audio taken from a microphone worn by Carter and video taken from the rear-facing video camera in Carter’s police vehicle – will take place in the court the case will proceed in, Ezra said. Both UIW and Alamo Heights Police Department have a copy of the recording.
Though not specifically mentioning the recording, UIW’s motion filed late Friday seeks to expand a confidentiality and protective order signed by Ezra in October that keeps sensitive pretrial evidence confidential. Anyone directly involved with the civil suit would have access, but the media and the public would not.
Redus, who went by Cameron, was unarmed and intoxicated when he was shot to death by Carter during an off-campus traffic stop on Dec. 6, 2013. Cameron was 23 years old. A criminal investigation is still ongoing and the District Attorney’s office has not presented the case to a grand jury to see if charges should be filed.
Both UIW and District Attorney Susan Reed are seeking to prevent the audio recording from being heard by the family, media and public. Reed was defeated in the Nov. 4 general elections by Nico LaHood. Although 11 months have gone by since the shooting, the case has not been presented to the grand jury. It remains to be seen if LaHood will change that, or if Reed will have the case presented before she leaves office in January.
“I’m not going to sit on this,” Ezra said to concerns of further delay. “(But) this is one area where there is no appellate review … (So we need to) double down and be doubly careful.”
UIW filed a motion to move the case to federal court from state court on June 4, a legal move that may be part of a strategy to delay the case and encourage a settlement as the federal caseload is severely backlogged. Historically, plaintiffs are awarded much smaller financial damages in federal court, another possible reason for UIW’s motion.
Ezra cited a complete lack of precedence for a civil case of this kind: a shooting that involves a private citizen and a peace officer employed by a private entity such as UIW. Typically, the court sees cases involving an officer employed by a municipality, county, or state.
“To some degree, the court is in uncharted waters,” he said. “(So this case will) require a great deal more analysis.”
The main issue disputed by both sides is whether Redus’ constitutional or civil rights were violated by Carter. If so, then the federal court would have jurisdiction.
UIW attorneys said language in the Redus’ original complaint implies that Carter shot Redus intentionally, with some sort of malice – which would run contrary to the Redus’ claim of negligence and make the case a civil rights issue.
UIW co-counsel Matthew Wymer referred to a section in the suit that describes shots fired by Carter:
“The fatal entry wounds indicate that Cameron was in a submissive position when Christopher Carter discharged his weapon for the last time,” states the Redus’ original petition.
“As pled (the Redus’ suit alleges) Cpl. Carter did something very intentional,” said Wymer.
UIW attorneys are also concerned that by letting the Redus’ neither confirm nor deny that there is a civil rights issue, UIW would be vulnerable to a federal suit “at a later time” if the case goes on to state court next week.
“As I understand it,” Ezra said of the Redus’ case as filed, “(No one is) saying (Carter) intentionally went out to kill.”
Brent Perry, lead counsel for the Redus Family, confirmed.
“The plaintiff is the master of complaint,” Perry said. “There is no mention of the U.S. Constitution (in the Redus’ suit).”
Perry argued that the Redus’ should be given preference when deciding where their case should be tried and that the entirety of their case can be tried with “exclusive reliance on state law,” adding after the hearing that “justice can be done a lot faster (in state court).”
Cameron’s mother and father, Valerie and Mickey Redus, were in attendance at Monday’s hearing, along with two of their four remaining sons, Kristopher and Everett Redus. Ethan and William Redus, still in high school, stayed home in Baytown, an approximate four-hour drive from San Antonio.
As the judge and attorneys on both sides – rather, all three sides, as Cpl. Carter’s lead attorney was in attendance – discussed details about Cameron’s final moments, the family patiently listened – and cringed. They’ve been waiting for any kind of movement in their civil suit since they filed in May 2014. But really, they’ve been waiting for answers and justice since late last year and have expressed frustration with the lack of communication they received from University officials in the days and months after Cameron’s death.
“We’re trusting that the right thing is going to happen,” Mickey said of next week’s hearing. “We’re leaving (that) in the hands of a much higher power than our own.”
This story was originally published on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.
*Featured/top image: Everett, Kristopher, and Valerie Redus look on as members of the media ask questions of their attorney after Monday’s federal court hearing. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Read all coverage of the Cameron Redus case here.