On Tuesday, a federal judge in St. Louis awarded a $1.5 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown. Michael Brown Sr. and Lezley McSpadden are the parents of Michael Brown, 18, who was fatally shot on Aug. 9, 2014 by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.
The shooting became a point of contention because Brown, who was black, was unarmed when he was shot by Wilson, a white officer. Emphatic protests lasted months and prompted a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. That investigation concluded that racial bias existed in the Ferguson legal system.
Wilson, who resigned from the force in November 2014, was not prosecuted as both a St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department declined prosecution. But Brown’s parents sued the city, former Police Chief Tom Jackson and Wilson in 2015. They contend that there was a police culture hostile to black residents. They also felt Wilson used excessive force.
A settlement in the case was reached out of court. Although U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber did not announce the settlement figure, Ferguson City Attorney Apollo Carey listed $1.5 million as the amount paid by the city’s insurance company, in a response to an open records request from The Associated Press on Friday.
Experts say that in cases such as the Browns’, cities prefer to reach settlements as opposed to pursuing trial since a sympathetic jury might award an amount far greater, in some cases. In fact, the Browns’ settlement is not as high as some other recent high-profile cases, which range from $850,000 in Arlington, Texas for 19-year-old Christian Taylor to $6.5 million for Walter Scott. Taylor was allegedly vandalizing cars at a dealership, and Scott was unarmed when he was killed while running from a traffic stop.
Michael Brown was accused of stealing from a store the day he died, and of reaching into Wilson’s police vehicle and attacking him. Those facts may have led to an adequate defense, according to some experts, which could mean the Browns had less leverage to fight for a larger settlement.
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