$1.7 Million = One Wrongful Death

Usman Chaudhry.jpgSepia Mutiny has been following the case of Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, the autistic 21 year old man who was shot and killed by LAPD when he was found in Hollywood sitting in shrubbery. A horrendous case, it seems that unwarranted police violence and murders on civilians have only increased, at least in California, since then. But in the case of Usman, at least there was some justice (h/t DrrrtyPoonjabi).

Earlier this week, a federal jury found that an ex-LAPD officer was responsible for the wrongful death of an autistic man shot and killed in Hollywood in 2008. On Wednesday, the jury awarded the victim’s family $1.7 million.

Since the killing, Cruz has insisted that Chaudhry tried to attack him with a knife and that he fired his gun in self-defense. On Monday, however, after four days of testimony, the jury rejected Cruz’s account when it returned a unanimous verdict finding that the ex-officer had used excessive force and acted in “a reckless, oppressive or malicious manner” when he shot Chaudhry.[latimes]

Clearly $1.7 million is not equivalent to the cost of one life, but it does signal to the LAPD that they simply cannot afford to make mistakes. What I found most fascinating about the case was the evidence pointing out the knife was planted by the LAPD and that the police officer knew the name of his victim.

During the trial, lawyers for the Chaudhry family presented evidence aimed at putting doubt in the minds of the jurors over Cruz’s account. Testing on the knife that Cruz said Chaudhry had used, for example, found one person’s DNA profile on the handle and blade but showed that the DNA was not Chaudhry’s. Also, after Cruz said he had never met Chaudhry before the shooting, a man testified that he had been present on multiple occasions when Cruz confronted Chaudhry and called him by name.

After the verdict, the jury was asked to decide how much money, if any, to award Chaudhry’s parents. Attorneys representing Cruz and the city of Los Angeles had tried to limit the size of the award by arguing that Chaudhry had had a frayed relationship with his parents that lessened their suffering.[latimes]

Condolences to the Chaudhry family. You can read Usman’s brother’s Tumblr page following the case right here. Though nothing can bring their son back,there is some vindication in knowing that some form of justice was delivered, particularly in this time of heightened police violence. But in the end, $1.7 million is still not enough.

This entry was posted in Community, In Memoriam, Law, News by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

5 thoughts on “$1.7 Million = One Wrongful Death

  1. Regarding the dollar worth of a life, $1M is what most insurance companies will reserve (that is set aside for both indemnity and possible punitive damages) where they are likely to be at fault and there is a fatality. If the victim had been a high-earner, or was a parent, the reward would’ve likely been much higher. If this is not covered by the county’s insurer, it will come directly out of the pockets of the taxpayers–while officers like Cruz, with their standard operating procedure of “use maximum force anytime I might conceivably break a fingernail” will continue to do things like this with relative impunity.

  2. A rare case of police misconduct actually being punished. As one who lives in NYC, there has been plenty of violence (including one brutal non-sexual rape) of, mostly, non-whites. And mostly not punished as juries seem to be totally tilted towards the pov of the police.

    by arguing that Chaudhry had had a frayed relationship with his parents that lessened their suffering

    …which shows the fundamental disconnect between our vaunted legal system and reality. When the predominant recourse is a monetary verdict, not surprising that it can be subject to this type of analysis. The basis should be severity of the crime, not the “pain and suffering” involved.

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