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PRONE: Supreme Court weighs in on prone restraint death

The decision to review a case out of Missouri should tell officers across the U.S. that the legal system will scrutinize these cases even more moving forward.

DENVER — When the United States Supreme Court decided this week to revive a little-discussed civil rights case against the city of St. Louis, it effectively sent a message to law enforcement officers across the country, according to one of the attorneys who asked the Court to review the case.   

The case of Lombardo v. St. Louis hinges on the issue of prolonged prone restraint. In 2015, Nicholas Gilbert died inside a St. Louis jail after, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of his mother, officers piled on top of the handcuffed man.

9Wants to Know has identified 121 people who died following so-called prone restraint. Gilbert is number 59 on our list.

RELATED: PRONE: At least 121 people across the U.S. have died while held prone by officers. Why?

RELATED: Law enforcement has ignored decades of warnings — and more people are continuing to die

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an unsigned opinion, sent Lombardo v. St. Louis back to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals for additional review. The decision represents a victory of sorts for the team of attorneys who fought to get the Court to review the case that had been tossed by the 8th Circuit.

Justices mentioned, in the four-page opinion, that there is “a well-known police guidance recommending that officers get a subject off his stomach as soon as he is handcuffed because of that risk.”

It’s really the first time the Court has waded into the subject that 9Wants to Know spent 18 months looking into.

9Wants to Know found a pattern of deaths across the United States that mirrored the well-known death of George Floyd in Minnesota last year.

In 1995, the U.S. Department of Justice warned officers of the potentially deadly consequences of prolonged prone restraint as it urged officers to get off the backs of an arrestee once that person is handcuffed.

Attorney Jon Taylor, who asked the Court to review the case, told 9Wants to Know the Supreme Court’s decision effectively tells officers that the legal system will add an additional layer of scrutiny to their claims to dismiss similar cases.

“There’s no denying that this will send a message to lower courts and law enforcement alike,” he said.

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