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Justice for Jeremy: 5 years later

Family’s wrongful death suit going to trial after long wait

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Justice for Jeremy: 5 years later

Dorothea Timmons, holding a Justice for Jeremy plaque, and Jerry Lum, are flanked by family members, from left: Jeremy’s brother Ryan Lum with daughter Jennika, 12 months; Jeremy’s grandmother Mae ...

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED October 1, 2014 1:21 a.m.

Five years after the death of their son, Jeremy, Jerry Lum and Dorothea Timmons are now looking forward to having their day in court.

On July 13, 2010 which was the first anniversary of Jeremy’s untimely death, the parents of the UC Berkeley and Sierra High graduate filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful death and false arrest, violations of Jeremy’s civil rights and of the American Disabilities Act, against the City of Lathrop, San Joaquin County, the three arresting Lathrop Police officers – Deputy Robert Davis, Sergeant Raymond Walters, and Sergeant Steven Pease – and San Joaquin County Corrections Officer Felipe Mendoza. The county is named in the lawsuit because the Sheriff’s Department provides police services to the City of Lathrop.

Peter Koenig of the San Francisco law firm Walker, Hamilton, and Koenig, LLP, which is representing Lum and Timmons, said the trial could begin as early as 2015 or sooner. Lawyers of both parties have to file a joint pretrial statement within 10 court days and get that to the judge, after which the judge will then set a trial schedule. But what the judge does is anybody’s guess, Koenig said, so the trial could start sooner or later.

The actual trial itself could take two to two-and-a-half weeks with the case going before a jury panel, he said. They could elect to have a bench trial “but we prefer to have this matter resolved by peers in the community,” plus this was the venue chosen by the plaintiffs, he explained.

The case is being heard in federal court because enough of the claims alleged are constitutional violations which concern federal questions.

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‘We’re ready’ for the trial’ – Lum family

After years of waiting, Lum and Timmons are eagerly looking forward to having their day in court.

“We’re ready. We want the facts to come out,” Jerry Lum said.

“We want to make sure nobody else has to go through what we went through. We want change,” added a tearful Timmons.

Jeremy was the oldest of the couple’s four children, three sons and one daughter.

The impending court trial follows a lengthy discovery phase that included depositions of sworn witnesses and gathering of evidences. It will be heard before Chief Judge Morrison England, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento who is replacing Judge Lawrence Karlton who is retiring on Oct. 1.

The trial was delayed for more than two years because the defendants filed an appeal after Judge Karlton denied their motion for summary judgment against the Lums. In their motion, the defendants claimed that the Lathrop Police officers named in the lawsuit were entitled to “qualified immunity from suit” and as such, should be removed from the case. They also claimed that the Lums “could not prevail at trial based on undisputed facts.”

The defense appealed Karlton’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in April of 2012. Finally, on July 9, 2014 which also happened to be the 5th anniversary of Jeremy’s jailing, oral arguments on the appeal were heard. Less than a month later, the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed Karlton’s ruling and dismissed the defense’s remaining claims, paving the way for the new trial.

Jeremy, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was under the care of a psychiatrist and was suffering a psychotic episode when he was arrested under charge of public intoxication just before midnight on July 8, 2009. He was taken to San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp where he was kept overnight. The following day, he was released at 7:37 a.m. and that was the last time he was seen alive. His decomposed body was discovered floating in the San Joaquin River, just about two miles west of the county jail, around 5 p.m. on July 12, 2009. Among the people in the search party was his father, Jerry, a Civil Air Patrol pilot who joined the search by air.

The defendants in the case are represented by Dana A. Suntag of Herum/Crabtree/Suntag Attorneys in Stockton. Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Les Garcia referred all questions to Suntag. A telephone message seeking comment after 5 o’clock on Tuesday was not immediately returned. When contacted, Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal simply commented via text message, “I cannot comment on a legal matter.”

Koenig said the Lum family is desirous to see mental health reform carry the day. “They are hoping this case will help shed light on the need for mental health reforms,” he said.

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