In another controversial case where a black man was killed, allegedly as a result of a choke-hold by police, the suspect’s family has been awarded $8 million. A Long Beach civil jury awarded the money to the family of Darren Burley, a 29 year-old man whom Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies admitted to engaging in a violent struggle with in Compton.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call on Aug. 3, 2012 because Burley, high on PCP, was choking a pregnant woman. Plaintiffs argued that during the struggle, the deputies blocked the flow of oxygen to Burley’s brain. Deputies denied ever applying a choke-hold, although they admitted to punching Burley, zapping him with a stun gun and using their body weight to force handcuffs on him. His death, they say, was caused by sudden cardiac arrest brought on by chronic drug use. Burley died 12 days after his arrest.
While county prosecutors declined to charge deputies David Aviles and Paul Baserra, citing Burley’s violent behavior, and jurors found Burley to be 40 percent at fault, they still found the county negligent and guilty of battery.
“Mr. Burley was subject to an illegal choke-hold and suffocation when deputies put too much pressure on him face-down during a misdemeanor arrest,” family attorney Carl Douglas said.
Douglas made the announcement on his Facebook page on New Year’s Day:
“Just Bangin' The Drums.. After deliberating for two days, the jury in my wrongful death trial awarded the family of Darren Burley $8 Million. Hallelujah!! Our team of lawyers, Jamon Hicks, Olu Orange, and John Sweeney fought the County lawyers for six weeks before Wednesday's tremendous verdict. Mr. Burley left a wife and five kids under 14, each of whom's life will not be made just a little bit better after losing their father. Though no amount of money will ever bring their Dad back, they will be able to be secure in the memory that his life did matter, and the fair minded people of Long Beach agreed.
“This money will truly result in the dawning of a new day for each of them. How appropriate on New Year's Day!!”
Douglas is best known for being one of the defense attorneys in the O.J. Simpson murder case. He is the former managing attorney for the Law Office of the late Johnnie Cochran Jr. before starting his own firm, The Douglas Law Group. Among his other clients was singer Michael Jackson (both trials), actors Jamie Foxx, and Queen Latifah.