The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the wrongful death jury verdict in the case of Kenny Smith. His estate had won the verdict in a civil case against the city of Cleveland and police officer Roger Jones, who fatally shot Smith in 2012.
Smith was a rapper who got caught up in a tense altercation with police after a show downtown; while trying to leave the event, Smith found himself "unarmed and surrendering when he was shot in the head outside of a stopped vehicle at East 9th and Prospect in Cleveland, Ohio on March 10, 2012," according to attorneys representing his estate.
The story was memorably captured in a feature
by former Scene
writer Kyle Swenson.
Following a lengthy civil litigation process, which included a criminal case
against another man who was tangentially involved in the altercation, a jury verdict demanded that the city of Cleveland pay $5.5 million to the family of Smith.
The city appealed the verdict, as promised. City attorneys argued that "U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver made several erroneous rulings during the 2015 jury trial," citing the judge's conclusion "that City lawyers were motivated by race when they attempted to strike a black juror from the jury panel."
The appeals court has sided with Oliver in that move.
Furthermore, Oliver had amended the legal award to $4 million, which the appeals court also upheld this week.
“Kenny Smith was a devoted son and talented artist," attorney Terry Gilbert said in a public statement. "When Jones shot him, he had not committed any crime, nor did he pose any threat. There is no justifying his untimely death. And yet, the City of Cleveland and [former] County Prosecutor [Timothy McGinty] defended Roger Jones, calling him a hero. But a jury of citizens and the higher court saw the case differently.”