Family justifies re-opening of Scozzari suit
By Pat Maurer
Commenting on the reopening of one aspect of the lawsuit against two Clare Police officers, two of William Scozzari’s sisters have said they are still looking for “justice” for their brother.
Scozzari died more than five years ago after an altercation with two Clare Police officers Clare Chief Dwayne Miedzianowski and Officer Jeremy McGraw. He died September 18, 2007 after he was shot when the officers attempted to arrest him at the Lone Pine Motel where he lived for several years.
Chief Miedzianowski said Scozzari, when he was confronted in front of his cabin, and after unsuccessful attempts to subdue him with a Taser, threatened them with a hatchet and a knife, prompting the shooting.
Scozzari was hit by five bullets from Officer McGraw’s gun and died at the scene.
The officers were both cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation of the incident by the Michigan State Police and by a written opinion by then Clare County Prosecutor Norm Gage.
After a lawsuit was filed by the Scozzari family against the city and the officers, Clare Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis investigated the matter and issued another written statement upholding the determination made earlier that the officers were not at fault.
At the conclusion of a jury trial held in June and July this year, jurors ruled that the city and officers were not liable for any violation of Scozzari’s Fourth Amendment Rights and denied monetary damages to the Scozzari family.
Last month U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Ludington upheld the decision that Scozzari’s Fourth Amendment Rights were not violated. On a second part of the new motion, he ordered a new trial to determine if Scozzari was denied timely medical care causing his death in 2007, as the Scozzari family’s attorney Hugh Davis claimed.
Judge Ludington said Davis’s claim “had merit” because of the instructions given to the jurors in the earlier trial and directed the U.S. District Court Clerk’s office to reopen the case.
In response, City Manager Ken Hibl said, “The trial is being reopened only on [the issue of] whether or not they (the officers) denied medical attention [to Scozzari] that caused or was a contributing factor in his death.”
He continued, “They [the officers] did exactly what protocol calls for and did not allow medical personnel on the scene until the scene was secure [safe for the emergency personnel]. This was typical law enforcement protocol.”
Responding to a Letter to the Editor from Michael Conway of Harrison, who questioned “When will it be enough?,” Scozzari’s sister Ann Campbell wrote, “My family waited five long years for the trial to be held only to find that truth is a relative term in Clare land justice is whatever the judge wants it to be.”
Conway had said, “These officers have been cleared [over and over] and should not be made to testify through another long, stressful and expensive trial. This case is a shining example of what is wrong with our judicial process.” He said, “This is a fishing expedition on the part of the Scozzari family attorneys at best.”
Another sister, Bunny Scozzari Mashione wrote, “I too have had enough, with uneducated people who are ignorant to the working of the American court system…I do agree that the amount of time to get to court is without a doubt a long process, expensive and beyond stressful. What wasn’t presented in court was the fact that my brother’s door was kicked in without a warrant as he committed no crime…The Scozzari family isn’t fishing for anything, just looking for justice for the brutal murder of an innocent handicap[ped] man.”
Both the Plaintiff’s and the Defendant’s attorneys were scheduled to participate in a “status conference” Tuesday.
“Even after all this, the matter may not be over. We are expecting the family’s attorney to file an appeal of the original jury ruling next,” Hibl said Wednesday.