The Oakland County Child Killer mystery has had hundreds, if not thousands, of tips over the past few decades from people who thought they knew who might have killed the children. One tipster in particular has stood out over the countless others. This tipster simply goes by the name ‘Bob.’
Bob has relayed some theories to authorities about who was involved in the killings, the number of children killed, and, most importantly, that the alleged killers are still alive. While Oakland County authorities claim that have fulfilled Bob’s requests in order to provide information, Bob has failed to provide any names or concrete information to lead to the capture and arrest of any killers.
As a result of a lack of information provided by Bob turned over to federal authorities, Debbie Jarvis, mother of one of the child victims, filed a $100 million lawsuit in federal court against the Oakland County prosecutor, sheriff, and Michigan State Police saying the withheld information about the killings. On May 15, the defendants answered the Complaint with a Motion to Dismiss based on government immunity.
Governmental immunity comes in two forms: qualified and absolute. Both forms of immunity prevent a government actor from having to go through a trial at all. Simply put, governmental immunity prevents someone from suing the government or an agent of the government for doing, or attempting to do, his job. As governmental immunity prevents government actors from being sued, courts will attempt to resolve immunity issues as early as possible in a case.
Absolute immunity is an unconditional immunity given to certain government actors. For example, judicial immunity is absolute. It protects judges and other judicial employees from lawsuits brought against them for doing their jobs. On the other hand, qualified immunity has a set of conditions that must be fulfilled in order protect a government actor. A government actor who uses conditional governmental immunity as a defense must prove to the judge that a hypothetical reasonable person in his position would not have known his conduct violated the law. Law enforcement officers are among the government actors that are afforded the defense of conditional governmental immunity in certain situations.
The defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit is based on conditional governmental immunity. What we will see from the Court with regard to this Motion is Judge Denise Page Hood attempt to resolve the governmental immunity defense right away. The defendants have the burden of showing they should be afforded governmental immunity for their actions. This burden will be a much easier task for the defendants to show than it will be for the plaintiffs to discredit. If the defendants are successful, the lawsuit will be dropped immediately. However, if the judge denies their Motion, the lawsuit will proceed.
If the case proceeds, an interesting issue will arise during the discovery process (the process of the parties of the lawsuit exchanging evidence they have). The defendants will be forced to exchange a lot of information they have related to the murders. This will raise some issues with regard to the overall investigation of the murders. Most of the information law enforcement has has been kept secret. The defendants are worried that the investigation will be hurt by revealing this information. Conversely, the plaintiff believes that this information will only help the investigation. She and her attorney believe the information may help people who have some knowledge connect the dots and come forward to help catch the murderers. It will be interesting to see how the investigation will be affected if Judge Hood denies the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.