On the heels of renewed demonstrations last week — sparked by a judge’s decision to try the six Baltimore police officers indicted in Gray’s death separately — comes the biggest news yet in the Freddie Gray case. As multiple sources are now reporting, sources close to the matter are sharing that Baltimore officials have reached a settlement with Freddie Gray’s family. And it’s HUGE.As The Washington Post reports:
Baltimore officials have reached a $6.4 million wrongful death settlement with the family of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died in April from a neck injury he suffered in police custody, according to two people with knowledge of the agreement.Baltimore officials could announce details of the proposed settlement as early as Tuesday. Such a deal however, would have to be approved by the city’s Board of Estimates, the governing body that oversees the city’s spending. That group, which includes Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), is expected to meet Wednesday.
The agreement comes a week after renewed demonstrations sparked by a court hearing in which a judge concluded that the six Baltimore police officers indicted in Gray’s death and arrest should be given separate trials. This week, the judge will consider whether those trials should be held in Baltimore or moved to another jurisdiction.
Gray was arrested the morning of April 12 and died days later from a catastrophic injury that occurred after he was driven, while handcuffed and unbelted, in a police van.After widespread protests and rioting led to a citywide curfew and the National Guard being called in, Gray emerged as an icon in the burning debate about the deaths of black men in police custody.
Some legal experts have said prosecutors face challenges in securing convictions against the officers. In an interview with The Washington Post in July, former Baltimore mayor and city state attorney Kurt Schmoke said he hoped the civil case would be settled before the criminal case to give Baltimore residents a sense of “justice” that they may not get with the criminal case.
The settlement was reached following weeks of talks between city leaders and Billy and Hassan Murphy, attorneys for the Gray family.In addition to the financial payout, the settlement would also call for the Baltimore police department to begin requiring its officers to wear body cameras, according to the two people familiar with the agreement. Equipping Baltimore city and Baltimore County police with the cameras was also part of a bill Hogan signed in May.
At $6.4 million, the Gray settlement exceeds a $5.9 million wrongful death claim New York officials agreed to pay the family of Eric Garner. Garner died after he was put in a chokehold by police on Staten Island. The Gray settlement is twice the 1994 $3.8 million payout to Los Angeles motorist Rodney King following his 1991 arrest.
The settlement also eclipses the total $5.7 million the city has paid out in 102 court judgments in police misconduct cases since 2011, according to a 2014 Baltimore Sun investigation.It’s unclear, however, whether the city or Baltimore’s police department acknowledges wrongdoing or liability as part of the settlement. So while “ju$tice” may have been served relatively swiftly — and with unprecedented richness — will it be seen as enough?
And while city officials may hope this settlement gives Baltimore residents a sense of “justice” that they may not get with the criminal case, how does this affect a fair outcome for the police officers awaiting their trials?
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]