Black Lives Matter: Justice Served in $2.5M Riverside Case

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Anthonie Smith as featured on Roland Martin Unfiltered Show

Black & Magazine Newswire

As America continued its battle against the latest coronavirus surge, the impending shutdown of some of its busiest cities, deepening political unrest and the looming holiday season, Harris & Hayden Law (formerly Harris & Associates) continued to fight for the rights of its client, Sybil Davis, mother of deceased Anthonie Smith, a mentally ill African American man fatally shot eight times by Riverside County sheriff’s deputies on July 16, 2015.

Five years after her son’s killing due to excessive force and two years after a two-week trial where the jury awarded $2.5 million to Ms. Davis, she and Riverside County finally settled her case. Riverside County appealed the settlement judgment despite jurors’ wishes and the will of the public. However, following oral argument on Nov. 12 before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, parties agreed to mutually resolve this matter for an amount equal to the original jury award.

As in far too many excessive force incidents, Ms. Davis called the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to explain that her son was acting irrationally and having a psychotic episode that required assistance. Deputies arrived on the scene, entered the apartment, and confronted Smith. An altercation ensued in which Smith struck one deputy and escaped by jumping from a second-story window. Later that morning, officers responding to a call for service discovered the decedent. When he appeared to swing a pair of pliers at them, they responded by shooting him seven times.

After being shot, Smith fell to the ground, got back up, and stood before them, wobbling and unarmed. As he rocked backward, one deputy aimed and took the final shot, causing Smith to collapse and later die. The case went to trial, and the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, reaching a $2.5 million verdict.

“In 2018, the Davis vs. Riverside $2.5M was one of the largest excessive force verdicts in the country for the year,” said the defendant’s attorney, John Harris, partner at Harris & Hayden Law.

Herbert Hayden, partner at Harris & Hayden, remarked, “We were encouraged and hopeful. We believed verdicts like these helps send an important message about policing and excessive force.”

Harris said, “In 2015, Anthonie cruelly was silenced forever, but the Riverside jurors gave him his voice. With the 2020 appeal, he was being silenced a second time.”

Five years after Smith’s tragic death, law enforcement’s horrific excessive force on Black American citizens is repeated consistently, and the failure to contain these events is ongoing.

Harris & Hayden Law has worked nonstop to defend and secure justice for the unheard. Although excessive force by police can affect people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, the victims of this injustice are primarily people of color. At Harris & Hayden Law, we believe Black Lives Matter.

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