Judge smacks down cops’ argument that jurors were too scared of black people to acquit them in fatal shooting
A federal judge this week affirmed a multi-million dollar verdict against police in the city of Lakewood, Washington — while at the same time smacking down their argument that jurors only ruled against them in the killing of an unarmed black man because they feared facing racial backlash if they didn’t.
The Seattle Times reports that U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein hammered the city of Lakewood’s appeal of the $15.1 million verdict that was leveled against it and its police officers over the death of Leonard Thomas, an unarmed black man who was killed by police during a SWAT raid in 2013.
During a December hearing on the case, a lawyer representing Lakewood argued that jurors in the case “weren’t going to go back to their individual communities and tell the people that they associate with, we found in favor of white cops that shot an unarmed black man.”
In her decision upholding the jury’s verdict, Rothstein called this particular argument “insulting” to the United States justice system.
“The suggestion that this jury flouted its charge and colluded to hold government officials liable merely to advance the jurors’ individual reputations is not simply frivolous; it is insulting to our constitutional order,” she wrote. “The notion that the American justice system can be characterized by an illegitimate solicitude for black victims of alleged police misconduct is so painfully ahistorical that one wonders whether Defendants advance this argument seriously.”
For good measure, Rothstein noted that none of the jurors in the case were black.
In the end, writes the Seattle Times, Rothstein affirmed the jury’s finding that police in Lakewood “acted outrageously, unreasonably and with malice and callous indifference to the life of Thomas.”