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The Case of Robert Tolan v. Jeffrey Wayne Cotton

Subtitled: How a police officer making a typographical error resulted in a man having a bullet shot through his lung.

Before the civil case could proceed to trial, it went to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The Supreme Court decided that it should go to trial.  I thought that we would have a trial to follow this week, but trial in this case is not going to happen.

The SCOTUS decision gives us the details.

Robert Tolan

Robert Tolan

In Bellaire, Texas, on December 31, 2008, around 2 a.m., Robert Tolan and his cousin, Anthony Cooper, were in a black Nissan sport utility vehicle. Police officer John Edwards entered the license plate number into a computer in his squad car, but he typed a “5” instead of a “6”. That mistake returned a match for a stolen vehicle of the same color and make of the Tolan vehicle. When that happens, the patrol car’s computer sends an automatic message to other police units.

The house where Robert and his cousin parked was where Robert lives with his parents. They were on the front porch when officer Edwards got out of his cruiser, drew his weapon, and ordered Robert and Anthony to get on the ground. Edwards accused them of having a stolen car. Robert told Edwards it was his car, and he complied with Edwards’ demand to lie face-down.

Hearing the commotion, Robert’s parents came out of the front door in their pajamas. Robert’s father encouraged the two young men to stay face down and say nothing. Officer Edwards told Robert’s parents that Robert and Anthony had stolen the vehicle. Robert’s dad told officer Edwards that Robert is his son, Anthony is his nephew, and that the vehicle belonged to the family. Read the rest of this entry

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