Freddie Gray Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against City of Baltimore
After Freddie Gray died in police custody in April, presumably due to police brutality, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Baltimore for failing to protect one of its citizens. Now, the city has offered the grieving family a settlement in the civil lawsuit – just as the criminal charges against the 6 involved police officers go to trial.
The $6.4 million wrongful death settlement was approved by Baltimore’s Board of Estimates, which is the governing body that oversees the city’s spending. The board will meet on Wednesday, September 9th.
“The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal.”
Although Baltimore will acknowledge civil liability in Gray’s arrest and death, the settlement means that the city does not accept any wrongdoing on behalf of the police department.
Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12th this year, shoved into a police van, and while en route to the local police station, he suffered as severe neck injury that led to his death days later. The six police officers who were involved in Gray’s arrest have been indicted on various criminal charges ranging from murder to manslaughter to reckless negligence. A Baltimore judge ruled recently that each officer will go to trial separately, which will allow evidence for the separate criminal charges to be admitted without being tied to another officer’s criminal charges. This can help prevent harsher penalties for the officers who were less involved, and also ensure that no evidence is thrown out because it is not relevant to another officer’s charges.
Gray’s murder was presumed to be the result of police brutality, which sparked months-long riots in Baltimore, and other cities around the country. His death has been tied to an on-going racial battle between police officers and low-income black neighborhoods.
Gray’s family’s wrongful death lawsuit is one of more than 120 similar civil lawsuits involving personal injury and wrongful death due to police brutality, with allegations dating back as far as 2011. However, the Freddie Gray wrongful death lawsuit settlement is larger than any of the other civil cases so far.
A spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a member of the Board of Estimates, said that the council member supported the settlement amount.
“The council president felt strongly that the matter of the settlement needed to be addressed, because you have a situation where a lengthy legal proceeding in terms of the civil case would not necessarily be in the best interest of the city,” spokesman Lester Davis said.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also voted in favor of the settlement, which her office announced that she would gladly support. However, to quell fears about the criminal trial for the 6 police officers, the mayor’s office released a statement no Tuesday that said the wrongful death settlement “should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial.”