The St. Louis Police Department has doled out $4.7 million since 2010 to settle some 44 cases, some of which include allegations of injuries or wrongful imprisonment or death, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Post-Dispatch reviewed some payouts had not previously been publicized. One of the cases, the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, resulted in the city paying his family members $900,000 in 2013. Joyce's office, however, only charged now-former Officer Jason Stockley with murder in the case in mid-May.
Two of the cases that the Post-Dispatch highlighted involve six-figure settlements but were never reviewed by the city prosecutor Jennifer Joyce's office for possible criminal charges—and, according to the news site, there were no plans to do so. One such case involves the April 2013 death of Cary Ball, who was shot 21 times after he crashed his car following a police pursuit. His family was awarded $400,000. There is also the case of Normane Bennett, who was shot in June 2010 after he ran from police who were trying to arrest him for alleged drug activity, the Post-Dispatch notes. His family was awarded $212,500.
The officers involved in the shooting deaths of Ball and Bennett were cleared by the Police Department. One lawyer, who won a $2.5 million award for a client who was exonerated after spending five years in prison in a case involving two former police officers, said that given the size of the settlements, the cases should definitely have been reviewed for potential wrongdoing.
“In my considerable experience, police departments do not settle, and certainly don’t settle for a lot of money, unless there is clear evidence of liability, clear evidence the shooting was unjustified,” Jon Loevy, from the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy, told the Post-Dispatch. “Anything short of that and they decline to settle.
“I can tell you from experience, they don’t just cough up money routinely. They fight hard. They are reluctant to resolve cases, and there is just not that kind of money lying around unless there is merit," he added.
Susan C. Ryan, the spokeswoman for Joyce, said that the circuit attorney was concerned that the Police Department had settled two of the cases for a total of more than $60,000, but she decided not to involve the office in reviewing the cases. Ryan cited lack of funding and manpower.
“At this time, the [circuit attorney’s office] does not have the manpower to review those cases. However, if the city would provide the funding for the effort … Joyce would be willing to consider the undertaking,” Ryan said.
Read more at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.