A federal appeals court has ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by survivors of a murdered Graham couple who contended Massachusetts officials were negligent in their supervision of the ex-con who killed Brian and Beverly Mauck.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in an opinion released Monday that Massachusetts officials were entitled to “absolute immunity” in their handling of Daniel Tavares because the case “was intimately associated with the criminal phase of the judicial process.” Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors generally cannot be sued for decisions they make when it comes to pursuing justice.
The parents and estates of the Maucks filed a civil-rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma in November 2010.
They contended Massachusetts state and county officials were negligent when they did not seek a nationwide extradition order for Tavares in June 2007 after he was charged with two counts of assault and skipped a court date.
Massachusetts authorities knew Tavares, who’d previously served 15 years for killing his mother, was dangerous and living in Washington, according to the lawsuit, yet they sought an extradition order limited only to northeastern states.
In November 2007, Tavares shot the Maucks to death in their home. Brian Mauck was 30, his wife 28.
Tavares later pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and is serving a sentence of life without parole.Survivors filed claims against Massachusetts authorities seeking upwards of $20 million in damages, saying their decision not to seek Tavares’ extradition from Washington amounted to “gross indifference.”
Massachusetts authorities moved the court to throw out the case, a request U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma rejected. Leighton’s ruling set the stage for the appeal to the Ninth Circuit.