Remember David Eckert, that New Mexico guy a little while back who was searched in the most invasive ways possible all because his buttocks were clenched “suspiciously?” Of course you do. How could anyone forget?
For the 14 hours after his stop sign violation in a Wal-Mart parking lot, police and hospital staff at Gila Regional Medical Center gave him x-rays, probings, enemas, a colonoscopy and to top it all off, a huge hospital bill for “services rendered.” They never found any drugs in his body, so they let him go.
Eckert sued for the extreme 4th Amendment violations he had to endure at the hands of the Deming PD and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Gila Regional Medical Center staff who agreed to perform all the procedures.
The two police departments involved have decided to settle with Eckert out of court. They’re giving him $1.6 million total. No news from the hospital yet, but I’d guess that if they agree to pay any settlement, it won’t be as much. Perhaps they’d agree to pay Eckert’s $5,000 medical bill.
Settling out of court could mean one of several things. However, in this case, I think the police decided that it would be cheaper to just pay Eckert off, rather than try to fight an extremely uphill legal battle before a jury that would surely be on Eckert’s side. The case is way too public and too egregious for anyone to defend.
It’s obviously difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to be treated as Eckert was treated, but I’d like to think that if I were in his position, I wouldn’t accept the out-of-court settlement. I’d want something like this to be as public and humiliating as possible for those involved. I’d probably sue for damages, but any money I’d receive would be taxpayer money. What I’d really be interested in is justice and making sure that these sorts of things never happen to anyone else in this country ever again. I’d want the officers, the hospital staff and all superiors who gave the go-ahead to be held individually accountable for what they did.
Part of the reason these sorts of things occur is that people are too easily bought off. The cases never even make it to court. I’m not necessarily criticizing Eckert. His accepting the settlement was his decision. But this case had a lot of potential. And now that Eckert’s been paid off, it’s as if nothing ever happened.