KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Protesters posted-up outside the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District Tuesday for the appeal of Eric DeValkenaere – a former detective for KCPD previously convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the 2019 shooting death of Cameron Lamb.
Both DeValkenaere’s attorney and a deputy attorney general – however – received a grilling in the courtroom from a panel of judges who expressed skepticism in arguments laid out in the appeal.
Recall that DeValkenaere was found guilty in a bench trial. That means it wasn’t a jury that found him guilty, but a judge. (That format was a choice made by DeValkenaere’s defense team.)
So now the appeals judges are looking at that ruling which includes that judge’s specific legal justifications – and many of their questions on Tuesday were built off that.
Jackson County assistant prosecuting attorney Ben Cox addressed re-hashed arguments about what led to Lamb’s shooting death on College Avenue in December 2019 – addressing a narrative laid out by DeValkenaere’s attorney.
“He now contends that the hot pursuit exception justified his presence in Cameron’s home. He makes that argument despite the trial court’s explicit finding that there was no pursuit fresh, hot, or otherwise,” Cox said.
Jonathan Laurans, attorney for DeValkenaere, used his time to focus on how KCPD tracked Lamb before the shooting – saying that the trial court made a mistake about officers not having probable cause.
“That is clearly erroneous because we have video tape – if you’ll go to exhibit 80 – showing several traffic crimes,” Laurans said.
But Laurans also faced extended questioning from Appeals Court Judge Thomas Chapman.
“But if the curtilage is on the private property, they have to have probable cause to make an arrest. True? And [the officers] acknowledge they didn’t have probable cause,” Judge Chapman said.
“The subjective conclusion of the officers of whether or not they have probable cause is irrelevant. It’s an objective standard,” Laurans said.
“So you’re saying they had probable cause to enter the premises with their guns drawn to arrest this man for traffic violations?” Judge Chapman said.
“For 13 separate traffic violations,” Laurans said.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office – stepping into its new self-appointed role to take down DeValkenaere’s conviction – leaned on self-defense arguments.
Shaun Mackelprang, Deputy Missouri Attorney General, added that under Missouri law – resisting arrest is illegal even if the arrest is unlawful.
“They are not an initial aggressor merely by virtue of the fact that they are armed police officers and are prepared – if necessary – to use force,” Mackelprang said.
“Whether or not he was doing the right thing in his heart to protect his fellow officer is different from whether he’s justified in using deadly force,” Judge Chapman said during another extended back-and-forth.
There is not a clear timeline on when the appeals court will deliver its decision. The process can often takes weeks.