The fatal shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 is a tragedy that shook the city of Ferguson, Missouri to its core. Brown, who was only 18 years old at the time of his death, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer who was acquitted of any charges related to the incident. This tragedy is one of many in a long string of racially-charged examples of police brutality against young black men, which made the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown even more unsettling to those following the case and people who were close to Brown.
Now, it was recently announced that Michael Brown’s family has filed a civil suit against the city of Ferguson for the wrongful death of Brown. According to NBC’s Erik Ortiz, “The family of Michael Brown must still convince a jury that the unarmed teenager was wrongfully killed when Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him last August.” Reportedly, lawyers for the family filed a lawsuit earlier this month claiming that Brown’s civil rights were violated because Wilson used unnecessary excessive force against him.
Unfortunately, even though many Americans perceive Wilson as guilty, he has already been acquitted of criminal charges once, which could certainly complicate this civil suit. And, as Miami-based attorney Kendall Coffey points out, wrongful-death cases in general are not easily won. Coffey, an NBC News legal analyst recently explained, “the plaintiffs have a compelling story to tell if it’s to be believed. But it’s certainly not going to be an easy case – even with an already reduced standard of proof.”
Ortiz echoes this sentiment, explaining that “When a criminal charge doesn’t stick, wrongful-death lawsuits are another legal option.” However, although “a civil suit carries a lower burden of proof than a criminal conviction, it doesn’t guarantee a slam-dunk win.”
Furthermore, Wilson could try to get the suit dismissed by simply stating that he was serving in the line of duty and used his best judgment at the time. Flimsy at best, this excuse is what has caused so much upheaval in places like New York City, Ferguson, and Baltimore, where local police are not held accountable for their use of fatal excessive force.
Hopefully, if nothing else, this process of filing a wrongful-death suit against Ferguson will provide the Brown family with some small solace as they continue to grieve the loss of their deceased son.