Brown’s family files wrongful death lawsuit

By Brandie Piper

CLAYTON, Mo. – Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. have filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, former police chief Thomas Jackson, and former officer Darren Wilson for the wrongful death of their son, 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr.

The suit alleges Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights through a deprivation of his right to “unlawful detention and the use of excessive and deadly force.” It also accuses the city and Jackson of failing to hire, train, supervise, retain, and conduct a fair and impartial investigation, alleging the police department “had a custom or policy of negligently hiring and retaining officers, failing to property train and/or supervise officers in the use of deadly force.”

Jackson is also accused of civil rights violations by employing Ferguson police officers who used “unjustified, unreasonable, and illegal use of excessive force, including deadly force.”

Wilson is accused of making an unconstitutional stop and/or detention and use of excessive force against Brown, who was walking along Canfield Drive when he was stopped by Wilson Aug. 9.

Thursday morning, lawyers for Michael Brown’s parents challenged the explanation of the shooting presented by Wilson, who resigned from the force four months after the August confrontation.

“He wants us to believe he was a 5-year-old sitting in his patrol car… and was attacked by Hulk Hogan,” lawyer Anthony Gray said, calling Wilson’s explanation “concocted.”

“America cannot continue to sanction the killings of unarmed people of color,” lawyer Benjamin Crump added. “We see these narratives just being accepted.”

SLU Law Professor Marcia McCormick says the plaintiffs will have a lesser burden of proof during civil proceedings, as compared to a criminal case. In a criminal case, a prosecutor needs to prove someone is guilty ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ In a civil case, the plaintiffs will have to prove that what their claiming is more likely true than not true. In this case, they also will only need to prove that Darren Wilson acted unreasonably, as opposed to acting illegally.

In November, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson for Brown’s death. The decisionsparked more unrest in the area the week of Thanksgiving.

In March, the Department of Justice released a report showing their investigation did not find evidence to disprove Wilson’s testimony that he feared for his safety, and there was an absence of reliable evidence that Brown had his hands up when he was shot.

The DOJ report also found that racial bias was rampant in the Ferguson Police Department. The report prompted the resignations of Jackson; Ronald Jackson, a judge named in the report; City Manager John Shaw; as well as other city officials.

Last month, the family announced their intent to file a civil lawsuit against the city and Wilson. Attorney Daryl Parks said the suit would “demonstrate to reasonable-minded people” that Wilson did not need to use deadly force against Brown, and give “a more clear, a more accurate picture of what took place that day.”

Jeff Small, a spokesperson for the City of Ferguson, says they will not comment on pending litigation.

Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY.

Published April 23, 2015 on

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