(CN) - A federal judge refused to hold police officers liable for the death of a teenager whom they handcuffed and left facedown in the mud after shooting him.
Police officer Dean Gransden shot 17-year-old Kashon Smith twice on Dec. 21, 2007, in Camden, N.J.
As police officers tried to seal off the crime scene and restrain Smith's family members, a crowd of nearly 100 neighbors and about 42 police officers and medical personnel gathered.
When Officer Jeffrey Frampton arrived, he saw Gransden handcuffing Smith's hands behind his back while Smith lay facedown on the ground, moving and moaning.
Before the paramedics arrived, no one provided first aid to Kashon. Officers removed the teen's handcuffs at Cooper University Hospital later that night.
Smith died just after midnight on Dec. 22, 2007.
His mother, Garressa Smith, sued Gransden and Frampton for civil rights violations.
During a 10-day trial, paramedics gave conflicting testimony. One paramedic, Marilyn Rodriguez, said that dirt and mulch had blocked Smith's airway, and that she cleared those materials before providing him with oxygen manually. Rodriguez said Smith was breathing minimally in the ambulance.
A jury returned a verdict of no cause on all counts on Oct. 19, 2012.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas refused this month to grant the mother judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, solely with respect to Frampton.
"The jury reasonably could have found that defendant Frampton's actions did not cause any harm to Kashon," Irenas wrote. "According to one paramedic, Brian Rowe, Kashon was breathing normally when Rowe arrived at the scene and continued to do so while he was transported to the hospital. Rowe also testified that, although no officer accompanied Kashon in the ambulance, Kashon's handcuffs were removed almost immediately after he arrived at the hospital by officers who had followed the ambulance there. In addition, Dr. Chmara testified that the two gunshot wounds were the cause of death. He further testified that Kashon's airways were free from dirt, mulch, and mucus and that there was no evidence of asphyxiation."
Evidence also fails to show that Frampton was deliberately indifferent to Smith's medical needs.
"Frampton was the crime scene supervisor and was thus responsible for securing the scene," Irenas wrote. "Several witnesses testified that a large crowd formed shortly after the shooting, with many of the people yelling and screaming. Members of the crowd, including plaintiff, tried to push closer to Kashon, and the officers on the scene had to hold them back to preserve the crime scene and any evidence there."
Irenas further held that "defendants' expert, Emanuel Kapelsohn testified that in such situations, the officers would have had to split their attention between the volatile crowd and Kashon," according to the nine-page opinion.
The crowd constituted an "exigent circumstance" that could have kept Frampton from turning Smith over, Irenas found.
"In light of this testimony, the jury reasonably could have found that Frampton was not deliberately indifferent," he wrote.