January 17, 2013

Maine Voices: Justice proves elusive for those whose loved ones are shot by police

The fate of a wrongful death suit in the 1992 shooting of Kathy Hegarty illustrates systemic bias.

By MIKE KAZMIERCZAK / Special to the Press Herald

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For example, the court’s summary of Kathy Hegarty’s interaction with the campers implied the campers were behaving appropriately while Hegarty inexplicably became angry.

But the campers were not using an official campsite; were only 30 yards from the Hegarty cabin; had broken through a locked gate and traveled a road officially closed to the public, and refused to put out an illegal and dangerous campfire burning directly beneath a “Kindle No Fires” sign.

Moreover, Kathy Hegarty was a registered Maine Guide and an accomplished woodswoman.    For years, she and her husband ran sporting camps in Jackman, guiding and entertaining anglers and hunters. She was the expert local, but the campers from away ignored her and then argued with her.

The appeals court identified Hegarty’s “history of emotional instability” without mentioning that this characterization was in dispute and that one of the two incidents comprising the “history” involved her filing an excessive-force complaint against the trooper.

The trifecta of police departments, their attorneys and the justice system almost always prevents people like Jack Hegarty from having their day in court.

Mike Kazmierczak of Ellsworth is writing a book about the 1992 police-involved shooting of Katherine Hegarty.

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