February 16, 2017 11:06:36 AM
An attorney defending former Columbus police officer Canyon Boykin in a federal wrongful death lawsuit is questioning whether the plaintiff is actually the father of the deceased.
A motion for dismissal Jackson-based attorney Jeffrey Reynolds filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Northern Mississippi in Aberdeen says Ricky Martin's paternity of Ricky Ball "has not been established or adjudicated" and therefore calls into question his standing as a claimant in the suit.
"Martin is not shown as the father on Ball's birth certificate," the motion reads. "Martin and Ball have different last names. Even if Ball was Martin's illegitimate son, Martin has not and cannot meet the statutory requirements of the wrongful death statute (...)."
Boykin shot and killed Ball on Oct. 16, 2015, after Ball fled a traffic stop in north Columbus. Ball was a passenger in the vehicle stopped. He was shot twice and a 9mm handgun was found near his body.
Last October, Martin -- claiming to be Ball's father -- filed the wrongful death suit.
In an interview with The Dispatch, Reynolds said Martin could have taken several steps, such as obtaining an order of paternity from a court, before Ball's death to establish that he is Ball's father. However, he said that has not been done, and it would have no legal bearing if done posthumously.
"You could prove today that you were Ricky Ball's blood father, but if you didn't fit in one of Mississippi's provisions, it wouldn't matter," Reynolds said.
Jeffrey Navarro, an Amory lawyer representing Martin, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
A question of heirship
The motion in Martin's case raises a second contention, Reynolds said, which revolves around another civil suit against Boykin.
The other suit, filed in September by Memphis attorney Paul N. Royal on behalf of the Ball family, says that Ball had a minor daughter.
If that is the case, Reynolds said, Martin's parentage over Ball wouldn't matter because spouses and children are wrongful death beneficiaries before parents, by statute.
However, Reynolds said he will also file a motion to dismiss the Royal lawsuit today.
Reynolds said Royal is not naturally a wrongful death beneficiary and would have to bring the case forward as administrator of an estate. Royal, though, has been appointed administrator ad litem -- someone appointed to represent an estate during a lawsuit -- in Tennessee.
"Tennessee statute allows him to proceed in chancery or probate court in Tennessee," Reynolds said. "That doesn't have anything to do with a wrongful death case in Mississippi."
Reynolds also pointed out there has not been an heirship proceeding to determine Ball's beneficiaries in a wrongful death case. He noted Royal has indicated his intent to file for an heirship proceeding in Lowndes County.
"The fact is both of these lawsuits are defective under Mississippi law as plead, and both of them ought to be dismissed," Reynolds said.
Royal could not be reached for comment by press time.
Both civil suits, filed in U.S. District Court, raise similar complaints against Boykin, former CPD officers Garrett Mittan and Yolanda Young, current officer Johnny Branch, former Police Chief Tony Carleton, the city of Columbus and 10 unidentified police officers.
The suits accuse the officers of failing to activate their body cameras and dishonestly reporting the events surrounding the case. They also accuse the city of failing to properly fund and train the police force.
A Lowndes County grand jury has indicted Boykin for manslaughter in Ball's shooting death. The city council also fired Boykin shortly after the incident for failing to activate his body camera before or during the incident and for inappropriate social media posts. Boykin's then-girlfriend was an unauthorized passenger in patrol car the night of the shooting.
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