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An untimely settlement

After weeks of discussion between city leaders, Maryland agreed to a $6.4 million settlement with Freddie Gray’s family. The money will be distributed throughout two fiscal years: $2.8 million this fiscal year, and $3.8 million next fiscal year, starting July. Taxpayer money will be used to avoid an unnecessary, costly civil litigation.

A decision that was superfluous in monetary value, would prolong the pending case against the six officers, and was ill-timed. There are many problems that could have been avoided, had the settlement decision followed the officer trials.

The decision to make such an expensive settlement took into account the high cost of fighting an anticipated federal civil litigation. Unfortunately, the timing of the settlement impeded the six officers’ trials.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stated that she believes “this settlement represents an opportunity to bring closure to the Gray family, the community and the city.”

The anticipated prosecution of the six police officers, who handled the arrest of Gray, is now set back by this premature settlement by the state. A major issue surfaced as a consequence of the settlement: biased jurors. It is human nature to form opinions, especially if the jurors taxes are used to make monetary contributions to people associated with the case.

Laura Coates, a former assistant united states attorney for the District of Columbia and trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, believes that this decision by the mayor undermined the ability of the prosecutor to fairly try the six defendants.

Although it was ruled by a judge that the officers charged with Gray’s death will be tried in Baltimore in light of the settlement on Friday, Sept 11, the defense will continue to argue that an impartial jury cannot be attained in such conditions.

Taxpayers have the right to judge law enforcement, which is funded by their tax money. This right is now at risk due to this questionable move. “The settlement gravely impacts the ability to secure an impartial jury,” stated Coates.

The settlement will exceed the total amount that Baltimore has paid out for police misconduct cases since 2011. This value is 16 times the amount of money dedicated to such state court cases. It is an amount that is 114 times larger than Baltimore’s most recent death settlement.

The monetary value of this settlement also overshadows the $5.9 million wrongful death settlement paid to the family of Eric Garner. The Garner settlement preceded the prosecution of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer responsible for his death. Pantaleo did not face charges for the killing of Garner.

Similarly, this settlement occurred before the actual prosecution trials. This decision has the potential to cause the officer trials to parallel the unjust outcome of the Pantaleo trial. This was a decision that could have cost more than just $6.4 million dollars, it could have cost an opportunity for justice.