The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in the University of Incarnate Word’s (UIW) appeal to be considered a “governmental unit” in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against UIW and former campus police officer Christopher Carter, who fatally shot UIW student Robert Cameron Redus during an off-campus traffic stop in 2013.
The decision comes after the Fourth Court of Appeals rejected UIW’s appeal based on “want of jurisdiction” in August 2015. That decision had given the Redus family hope that they would be able to begin discovery in preparation for the civil suit. They will now have to wait longer for access to vital evidence, including the clothing Redus was wearing on the night of the shooting.
Oral arguments are set to begin December 7, three years and one day after the death of the 23-year-old honors student on December 6, 2013.
Mark Hall, a close friend of the Redus family who has been involved in the case from the beginning, said that the delay in justice has been painful for the family. He feels that the private, Catholic university is doing all that they can to see that justice is delayed even further.
“We have looked at it as a delaying tactic all along,” Hall said. “Every time something is due, (UIW) asks for a delay.”
The setbacks have been particularly frustrating for the family, as reliable testimony in the case becomes more difficult to obtain with each passing year.
“If we were fighting over money, that would be one thing,” Hall said. “But we’re fighting over what happened.”
Based on the evidence already available to them, the Redus family feels that they can make a strong case for the wrongful death of their son and brother, Hall said. The medical examiner’s report has already called into question Carter’s account of the night of the shooting. Hall believes that ballistics will reveal an even more troubling series of events.
Of the six shots fired into Redus’ body, Hall believes that the third bullet fired into Redus’ back paralyzed him. Subsequent shots were not only unwarranted, Hall said, but seemed “very slow and methodical” according to the tape of the incident.
“We believe there were three more shots spread out over about five seconds,” he said.
The prosecution needs access to Redus’ clothing, in particular a sweater he was wearing on the night of the shooting, in order to corroborate their theory.
If the Texas Supreme Court allows UIW to be considered a governmental entity, effectively dismissing the Redus family’s civil suit, it will have far reaching implications for private universities across Texas, Hall said.
“I think they are treading on dangerous ground by hearing this case and not dismissing it out of hand,” he said.
Should the court give legal precedent to the status of private universities as governmental entities, UIW’s short game – exempting themselves from a wrongful death suit – could end up costing them in the long run. Public status could cause problems for other universities as students and faculty demand that the schools uphold the rules and regulations of public schools.
“I can guarantee you that every aggrieved student and faculty with an axe to grind can run to court,” Hall said.
With the removal of UIW President Lou Agnese by the university’s board of trustees Monday, UIW had the opportunity to step back from their appeal, giving the Redus family the opportunity to pursue closure. This view was expressed by Robert Rivard in a recent Rivard Report editorial.
Redus’ mother, Valerie, is frustrated with the time and energy being spent on UIW’s appeal rather than on the wrongful death case itself, and feels as though they are actually moving further away from justice.
The Redus family said they are “stunned,” by the Supreme Court’s decision, but they plan to continue with the case, appealing to federal courts if need be, Hall said.
“I believe in a Holy God,” Valerie said. “I just need to trust that clearer heads and common sense will prevail.”
Top image: Cameron Redus, 23, was fatally shot by a UIW campus police officer during a traffic stop in December 2013. Photo courtesy of Redus family.