Phoenix, AZ Tries to Keep Records Sealed in Police Wrongful Death Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, DC — On Friday, Muslim Advocates asked a federal judge to reject a request from the City of Phoenix, AZ to keep court records sealed for a $10 million lawsuit over the police killing of a Black, disabled, Muslim man.

In 2017, Phoenix police officers arrested and killed Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. after he attempted to enter a public restroom with his service dog. With four Phoenix police officers pinning him down, including at least one officer kneeling on his neck, Muhaymin cried out “I can’t breathe” and “Please, Allah” before he died. In body camera footage, one officer can be heard responding, “Allah? He’s not going to help you right now.” One day before an important hearing in the Muhaymin family’s lawsuit against the City of Phoenix was set to commence, a federal judge abruptly sealed the court proceedings from the public and press without justification. Last month, Muslim Advocates submitted a motion asking for the records to be unsealed.

Last week, the City of Phoenix asked a judge to reject Muslim Advocates’ request and keep the records under wraps. In this request, the city falsely argued that anti-Muslim bigotry had nothing to do with the case and that Muslim Advocates did not have the right to intervene and ask for the records to be unsealed. In a response filed on Friday, Muslim Advocates categorically rejected these arguments, noting that the city has never fulfilled its legal duty to justify why the trial should be hidden from the public.

“The City of Phoenix has never bothered to justify why they asked for the public and press to be barred from witnessing this important trial. Now, instead of finally giving us all an answer, they are deploying a smokescreen of false, ridiculous attacks on Muslim Advocates’ attempt to unseal the court records,” said Muslim Advocates staff attorney Sanaa Ansari. “Phoenix police officers killed a Black, disabled, Muslim man and mocked his faith and no officer involved has ever faced any accountability. Amidst an ongoing national conversation about police violence against marginalized communities, learning about the Muhaymin family’s lawsuit is clearly in the public interest.”

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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.