$6.4 million payoff taints jury pool and sends signal of misconduct.
The evidence that police committed a crime in the handling of Freddie Gray is far from beyond a resonable doubt.
In fact, as Andrew Branca has analyzed here many times, based on publicly available information there seems to be serious doubt that police did anything wrong, much less anything criminal.
So what explains the Baltimore Mayor’s decision to pay $6.4 million to Freddie Gray’s family?
The Baltimore Sun reports:
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s decision to pay Freddie Gray’s family a $6.4 million civil settlement drew praise and criticism Tuesday, with some Baltimore leaders saying the move will help heal the city and others calling it premature.
Former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the settlement — expected to be approved Wednesday by the city’s spending panel — was a “very positive development for the city.”
“The mayor and her staff are trying to do all they can to heal the wounds in the community, and this is a step in the right direction,” said Schmoke, president of the University of Baltimore. “This settlement will give some people in the community at least some sense of justice.”
Superficially, peace through money seems to be the goal, because the dollar amount is hard to explain relative to other settlements, as the Baltimore Sun further explains:
The Gray settlement exceeds the combined total of more than 120 other lawsuits brought against Baltimore police for alleged brutality and misconduct since 2011. State law generally caps such payments, but local officials can authorize larger awards.
The mayor’s office declined to answer questions about the settlement, including why it was brought to the spending panel before any civil lawsuit was filed and how the payment amount was reached.
I don’t see it that way. I think there’s a much more mischievous motivation.
My theory: Money to Freddie’s family may not buy peace on the streets, but convictions will.
This settlement, while technically not an admission of guilt and one that will not be allowed to be presented in court, nonetheless will taint the jury pool. Everyone in Baltimore will know that there was a big payout, and big payout means something wrong was done.
So I don’t see this as a peace deal in itself, but a strategy to make convictions more likely. Peace through convictions.
And since the City will have settled up already, there’s no extra cost to the City for guilty verdicts.
Update 9-9-2015 – AP has an article along similar lines today, Experts say settlement in Gray case could affect hearing:
… experts say the city’s willingness to pre-empt a lawsuit could have an effect on the officers’ ability to receive a fair trial in Baltimore — an issue Williams will likely decide Thursday.
“Damages would have been paid if the city went to trial and they’re willing to settle it. But they tell us it’s by no way an admission of fault by the police officers,” said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “There’s no doubt that this will figure in to the hearing for change of venue. If I was an attorney for a defendant I’d be revising my motion right now to say the settlement was made to persuade the jury pool that the officers did something wrong.”
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