FARMINGTON — A jury has ruled that a Morgan County sheriff's sergeant didn't violate a woman's rights when he shot her in the eye five years ago.
The lawsuit filed by Kristine Biggs Johnson, who lost sight in her left eye in the shooting, went before a jury in 2nd District Court last month. After a five-day trial, jurors on Oct. 27 rejected Johnson's claim that Sgt. Daniel Peay had violated her rights under the Utah Constitution when he pulled the trigger, according to court documents.
Johnson was driving with a headlight out on I-84 in November 2012 and didn't pull over for police who tried to stop her, leading officers on a chase through Weber Canyon.
After exiting the interstate onto a frontage road, Johnson stopped her vehicle, turned it around and drove at officers who were out of their vehicles trying to apprehend her. Believing that Johnson had hit one of the officers, his brother, Peay shot at Johnson in the driver's seat of her truck, according to the court record.
In 2013, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings found that the shooting was not legally justified. He said then that Peay's use of deadly force didn't "squarely fit" the U.S. Supreme Court statute in the moment he shot Johnson.
Rawlings, however, declined to prosecute the officer.
Johnson, who now lives in Sonoma County, California, sued Peay and Morgan County in U.S. District Court in November 2014, claiming the "unreasonable, excessive, and dangerous deadly force" deprived her of her civil right to due process.
But in August 2016, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ruled that Peay's use of force was reasonable. The federal judge dismissed four of Johnson's claims with prejudice, meaning they could not be filed again.
The fifth claim, however, was based on Utah's Constitution, and was dismissed without prejudice. In September 2016, Johnson sued Peay again, this time in state court.3 comments on this story
Johnson's lawsuit in state court claimed that Peay did not have reason to believe that either his or his brother's life was at risk and sought unspecified financial compensation, as well as legal costs.
Before the case reached a jury, Peay had argued in court to have Johnson's claim dismissed based on Campbell's ruling. In court filings, Peay maintained he believed his brother was threatened when Johnson's truck hit his vehicle.
Peay also argued that the shooting didn't rise to a "flagrant" level, required for an offense to be proven under Utah law, and that the federal court ruling has established he was entitled to qualified immunity.