Los Angeles County must pay a full $8 million damage award to the family of a Black man
Whose death had similarities to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis,
The California Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Deputies “used their knees to pin him to the ground with as much body weight as possible,” according to the court’s unanimous ruling.
Deputy David Aviles put one knee on the center of Burley’s back and the other “onto the back of Burley’s head, near the neck,” while other deputies also were involved.
Burley died 10 days later.
A jury in Long Beach awarded his family $8 million in damages while
Burley was 40% responsible for his own death.
An appeals court later reduced the payout by $3.2 million.
The high court justices, however, ruled that the county owes the family the entire $8 million.
Attorney Olu Orange, said that “victims of police misconduct are going to be able to avail themselves of every law in the legal toolkit to redress violations of their civil rights.”
Los Angeles County and the Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The facts of this case bear similarities to well-publicized incidents in which African Americans have died during encounters with police.
These incidents raise deeply troubling and difficult issues involving race and the use of police force,” the court said in its ruling.
The justices said their decision centered on a ballot initiative adopted by California voters in 1986
Their decision that assigned damages based on degrees of responsibility, not on Burley’s race or that he was killed during an encounter with law enforcement.
Orange said “one of the most effective tools that folks in communities that are typically subject to police violence have in order to seek justice.”
Jurors are instructed to consider if a suspect’s actions justified the officers’ reaction, as well as to assign degrees of responsibility.
Justice Goodwin Liu went even further in finding parallels with Floyd’s death in May,
When a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
“Darren Burley is not a household name is that his killing was not caught on videotape as Floyd’s was,” Liu wrote.