Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Rejects Appeal in Police Suit

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Rejects Appeal in Police Suit

Article excerpt

Kimberly Roth and her parents repeatedly called the police in Columbia, Mo., in 1986 and 1987 after her husband threatened them. The police did not arrest the husband, who ended up raping Roth and murdering her mother.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court closed the courthouse door to Roth and her father, who had sued the Columbia Police Department for failing to treat reports of domestic crimes as seriously as other crimes. A jury had awarded them $1.2 million, but a judge threw out the award, and the Supreme Court refused to hear Roth's appeal.

The Supreme Court's action Monday short-circuited what women's rights groups wanted to make a test case. They had hoped to win the right to sue a police department that did not treat domestic crimes as seriously as other violent crimes.

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case does not necessarily mean that the court agrees with the lower court decision.

But Roth's attorney, Roger G. Brown of Jefferson City, believes it speaks loud and clear. "It says, if you don't enforce the law we're not going to hold you legally accountable," he said. "The lower court decision is a nice blueprint for police departments to avoid accountability."

The Columbia Police Department declined to comment. In its legal brief to the Supreme Court, the department said its records did not show as many complaints about the husband as Roth and her father claimed. The department said also that its handling of the complaints was consistent with the law at the time.

Roth met Sonny Stephens in 1978, and they married in 1982. In September 1986, after years of abuse, Roth obtained a protective order against Stephens. She and her five children moved in with her parents, Paul and Marge Ricketts.

Roth moved back in with Stephens for several months, but the abuse continued, and she left again in March 1987. On April 7, 1987, Stephens came to the Rickettses' house, fatally shot Marge Ricketts and took Roth into the woods and raped her.

Roth and Paul Ricketts sued the Columbia department, saying that their constitutional right to equal protection under the law had been violated. …

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