SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The 20 shots fired at Stephon Clark have sparked national outrage.
In the aftermath of his death, Clark’s family has hired renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. In those cases, the lawsuits filed resulted in out-of-court settlements.
“There’s a lot of moving parts involved a case like this,” said John Myers, a professor at McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. “It’s very unlikely this case will go to trial.”
Myers specializes in evidence and criminal trial issues. He told CBS13 it’s likely the Clark family will file a case in federal court under a civil rights law.
“Not only will the officers be sued but the police department and probably the City of Sacramento will be sued as well,” Myers said.
He believes the officers’ state of mind would be a critical factor in the case.
“It’s going to be viewed from the perspective of the police officers under the circumstances and whether it was reasonable in believing they needed to use deadly force,” Myers said.
Florida-based Crump represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown. Settlements in some of those cases landed in the multimillion-dollar range.
“Based on my experience with this kind of cases, we’re certainly looking at a settlement in the millions,” Myers explained. “Why so much money? Multiple millions of dollars? Well, a life was lost, and the law provides that when a person’s life was lost, the plaintiff can recover from pain and suffering and the loss of future income of that person.”
But Myers says taking legal action in a case like this is often about more than just money.
“Hopefully they can find ways to reduce the likelihood that this will happen in the future, but there is no guarantee that things will change,” he said.
Sacramento protestors say they’re angry that another black man is dead at the hands of police. But Myers says the only way to prove race was a factor in Clark’s death, would be if the officers had mentioned Clark’s race during the shooting.
“It appears to all the world that probably the dumbest thing those police officers did was say ‘hit the mute button’ because that just looks like what do we have to hide,’” Myers said.
Myers says it could take months to settle a case like this. But with the city under the pressure of a national spotlight, city leaders would likely want to resolve everything as quickly as possible.