Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Police Misconduct Cases: Answers and Possible Justice Await in the Civil Courts
Video and social media has raised public awareness about police misconduct and inappropriate use of force cases. What I’ve been watching on the news about the tragic Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases doesn’t surprise me at all.
These kinds of detentions, arrests and deaths have been happening for years. Only recently has technology allowed the world to see what is really happening out on the streets. The Kelly Thomas case here in Orange County is an example of video making a difference.
In 2009 I handled a case similar to the Eric Garner matter. Three officers wrestled our client’s adult son to the ground, in his own living room, using the same type of choke hold (in my case it was a blood choke aka carotid restraint or sleeper hold) resulting in death 8 minutes later. The entire incident should have been handled differently. My clients’ son should be alive today.
I’m sure this will sound familiar to you. In the case I handled, the police agency’s own internal investigation determined that the three police officers did nothing wrong. The local District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against any of the officers.
My clients are a wonderful, loving, and deeply religious family. So was their son. The family knew justice was not served and eventually hired my firm to help them get answers. After 5 years of litigation in the civil courts I was able to do just that. My multi-million dollar verdict changed how this police department handles these types of cases [case details]
I bring this to your attention because in both the Garner and Brown cases, the families do have the legal right to pursue civil wrongful death cases against the responsible police officers and their police departments. During the litigation process their lawyers will be able to take depositions of all the police officers, witnesses, and people in charge to find out all the facts. In most states, police officer files and records can be reviewed in camera (behind closed doors) with a judge to see if there are any patterns of discrimination and ongoing misconduct. If so then these facts can be used in the current civil case.
Civil Jury Trials
A successful big dollar civil jury verdict will change the system. It will send a message and hit the defendants where it hurts most—their pocketbooks.
Multiple civil awards rendered by local citizens sitting as jurors will force officials to change investigative and arrest protocols and over time the system will get better. Holding police officers, departments, cities and governments accountable with big dollar verdicts will result in change. People running for elected positions will need to embrace the messages behind these verdicts or their chance for election will quickly evaporate.
Just like in any profession, you get the good with the bad. Police officers found at fault for police misconduct can and should lose their jobs. Over time, the criminal justice system will be an improved system for all. We’ve come a long ways to establishing equal justice for all. We still have a long ways to go.
Videos, conversation, and peaceful protest will encourage everyone to keep moving forward with positive change. There’s an awareness today like never before and that’s a good thing.
As a citizen of this country, your civil courts and your right to trial by jury will you keep everyone honest. That’s why I’m proud to be a trial lawyer. Together with other trial lawyers across this great country, we have the opportunity to help people get answers and seek justice.
In closing I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes with you. Please don’t ever let big government take your right to trial by jury away from you.
Here’s the quote…