Michael Brown Family To Sue Officer Wilson, City Of Ferguson
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The parents of Michael Brown plan to sue the city of Ferguson, Mo. and the officer who killed their son. The announcement comes a day after the Justice Department said it would not prosecute Darren Wilson for Brown's death. Just ahead, why one expert says the DOJ report on Ferguson points to racism beyond the police department and the city's courts. First, St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann has more on today's decision from the Brown family.
RACHEL LIPPMANN: Lawyer Anthony Gray says that while the Brown family appreciates the work that went into the state and federal criminal investigations, it fundamentally disagrees with the idea that Darren Wilson was acting in self-defense.
ANTHONY GRAY: We've always felt from the very beginning that Officer Darren Wilson did not have to shoot and kill Mike Brown, Jr. in broad daylight in the manner that he did, that he had other options available to him.
LIPPMANN: Gray says the civil trial will provide a clearer and more accurate picture of what actually happened on August 9, the day Brown was shot and killed. Wrongful death lawsuits often give the families of victims a path for seeking legal recourse, even without criminal charges. Chuck Henson teaches at the University of Missouri Law School. He says those suits' main appeal is that they're easier to win. Criminal convictions require the familiar standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
CHUCK HENSON: The jury is informed that they effectively have to be so certain that they would rely on their conclusion for a decision, a major decision in their own life.
LIPPMANN: But civil cases only require a preponderance of the evidence.
HENSON: Preponderance of the evidence just means that more likely than not.
LIPPMANN: Henson says that's how it was possible for O.J. Simpson to be ordered to pay $40 million to the families of his ex-wife and her friend, even though a jury found him not guilty of murder using the same evidence. Attorneys for Michael Brown's parents have not revealed many details about their possible suit, including how much they're seeking and whether they'll file in state or federal court. Daryl Parks says it was hard for his clients to hear that no one would face criminal charges for their son's death, but he says they feel partially vindicated by the scathing Justice Department report about the Ferguson Police Department.
DARYL PARKS: It's important that we remember that the things that they found within the City of Ferguson Police Department were the same culture that existed the day on August 9th, as Officer Darren Wilson met Michael Brown in that street.
LIPPMANN: Ferguson officials have not yet said whether they're willing to work with the Justice Department on its recommendations, and they would not comment on the potential lawsuit because it has not yet been filed. For NPR News I'm Rachel Lippmann in St. Louis.
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