“What is next for Officer Lisa Mearkle?”, is a question only she can answer. What we can expect over the coming months is an invigoration of the civil Wrongful Death action in Federal Court. The attorney for Mr. Kissick’s survivors will likely move forward with discovery, depositions and with the typical steps designed to bring the matter to resolution in Federal Court. It is not over because there are two different burdens of proof. The burden of proof for a
civil cause of action in is quite a bit different than it is for a criminal case.
In a criminal case the burden of proof is on the Commonwealth or State to prove that a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. By contrast, in a civil case (in Federal Court or otherwise), the burden of proof is lower on the Plaintiff where the Plaintiff is only required to prove that the Defendant is liable to a preponderance of evidence (greater that 50% likely). By way of illustration, the difference between the two burdens of proof made it possible for the Goldmans to sue OJ after he was acquitted of murder in his Criminal case.
The civil process may take the case deep into 2016 (or even 2017), where a settlement may be reached or another jury trial may take place. This process will not necessarily bring closure quickly to those craving it most, but rather will likely keep the wounds from healing. So, for those who had hoped that the conclusion of the criminal trial would bring closure, there is likely more delay in store.
I successfully defended a Corporal in the State Police in 2012 (alleging an unjustified use of force) through a criminal trial where he was acquitted by a jury and the civil case on the same issue continued to drag until it settled nearly two years later. Hummelstown PD is covered by an insurance policy that will likely pay for the defense and for the settlement or verdict (if any), but the case will likely remain in the mid-State’s dialog for the distant future.