September 8, 2017 10:46:20 AM
COLUMBUS -- A federal judge has dismissed one of a pair of civil suits against former Columbus police officer Canyon Boykin.
Judge Glen H. Davidson granted Boykin's February request to dismiss Ricky Martin's civil lawsuit against the former officer for lack of jurisdiction. Martin, who claims to be Ricky Ball's father, sued Boykin in October 2016.
Boykin shot and killed Ball on Oct. 16, 2015, after Ball fled a traffic stop in north Columbus. Ball was a passenger in the vehicle stopped. He was shot twice and a 9mm handgun was found near his body.
Jackson-based attorney Jeffrey Reynolds, who is representing Boykin, filed the motion for dismissal earlier in year because Martin's standing as a claimant was not clear.
"Martin is not shown as the father on Ball's birth certificate," the motion said. "Martin and Ball have different last names. Even if Ball was Martin's illegitimate son, Martin has not and cannot meet the statutory requirements of the wrongful death statute."
In his ruling, issued Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Northern Mississippi in Aberdeen, Davidson said Lowndes County Chancery Court found that Martin, even if he is Ball's father, is not an heir-at-law and cannot be a wrongful death beneficiary. Ball has a minor daughter, who the chancery court ruled is his "sole heir-at-law and wrongful death beneficiary."
"There is no indication in the record in the record that Plaintiff Martin has appealed the ruling ...," Davidson wrote. "This Court will not disturb the ruling of the chancellor on the determination of heirship and wrongful death beneficiaries. For all the foregoing reasons, because Plaintiff Martin is neither an heir at law nor a wrongful death beneficiary of (Ball), Plaintiff Martin lacks statutory standing to bring his claims."
Amory-based Attorney Jeffery M. Navarro, who represented Martin said, when contacted by The Dispatch, the court's decision likely marks the end for any of Martin's options.
"I think the court correctly ruled," he said. "I don't anticipate us appealing it."
Royal case moves ahead
Davidson also denied Boykin's motion to dismiss a second civil suit against him by Memphis attorney Paul N. Royal. Royal filed the case on behalf of the Ricky Ball estate in September 2016.
Boykin's motion to dismiss the case questioned whether Royal's standing as an administrator ad litem -- someone appointed to represent an estate during a lawsuit -- in Tennessee had standing in Mississippi.
Davidson's ruling also notes the Shelby County, Tennessee, Probate Court found Ball was a resident of the county at the time of his death, even though he died in Lowndes County.
Davidson wrote that Royal does have legal standing as a plaintiff for the case.
"Under Mississippi law (Royal), who was appointed administrator ad litem of (Ball's) estate ... for the purpose of pursuing this wrongful death action and other claims in Mississippi, is a 'temporary administrator' and 'personal representative' who is entitled to bring this suit under Mississippi's wrongful death statute and survival statue," Davidson wrote. "... (Royal) thus has statutory standing to bring this case, and because he was appointed administrator ad litem prior to the filing of this suit, (Royal) had standing at the time he filed the complaint in this cause."
Both civil suits, filed in U.S. District Court, raise similar complaints against Boykin, former CPD officers Garrett Mittan and Yolanda Young, current officer Johnny Branch, former Police Chief Tony Carleton, the city of Columbus and 10 unidentified police officers.
The suits accuse the officers of failing to activate their body cameras and dishonestly reporting the events surrounding the case. They also accuse the city of failing to properly fund and train the police force.
Memphis attorney Danese Banks, who is representing Royal and the estate, could not be reached for comment.
Approaching trial dates
Trial dates are looming in two additional cases involving Boykin.
Boykin filed a wrongful termination suit against the city in February 2016, in the U.S. District Court in Aberdeen. That case is currently set to go to trial on Sept. 25.
The city council fired Boykin shortly after the shooting for failing to activate his body camera before or during the incident and for inappropriate social media posts. Boykin's then-girlfriend was an unauthorized passenger in the patrol car the night of the shooting.
Boykin's criminal case's start date is still set for Oct. 17 in Walthall County. A grand jury indicted Boykin for manslaughter in the shooting death of Ricky Ball in September 2016. In May, Judge Lee Coleman ordered the case moved to Tylertown, in Walthall County due to heavy media coverage of the case locally.
Boykin's trial is set to begin on a Tuesday because Walthall County's court is used for youth and drug courts on Mondays.
Reynolds said it's possible that either case could move, but he's more certain Boykin's criminal case will start when it's supposed to.
"It wouldn't surprise me if his wrongful termination case against the city got moved," Reynolds said. "It would surprise me if the criminal case got moved. I don't see it moving unless someone is in the hospital or something. You never know -- a judge could get sick, but I don't anticipate a continuance."
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