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"They got millions of dollars for beating someone"
A travesty of justice

February 4, 2005 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,
On January 18, a jury awarded $2.4 million to Jeremy Morse and Bijan Darvish, two white Inglewood, Calif., police officers who were videotaped beating a 16-year-old Black teenager, Donovan Jackson, on July 6, 2002.

Morse and Darvish had sued the city of Inglewood, claiming they were discriminated against because they are white--because they were punished more severely than a Black officer named Willie Crook, who reportedly hit Jackson with a flashlight. Morse was fired, and Darvish was given a 10-day suspension. Crook was suspended for four days and eventually lost his job as a police officer.

The videotape, which shows Morse slamming Jackson on the hood of a police car and punching him in the face, caused outrage in the largely Black community of Inglewood. Morse was twice tried on felony charges. In both trials, the jury deadlocked, and prosecutors have since dismissed the case.

In their lawsuit against the city, Morse was awarded $1.6 million, and Darvish was awarded $811,000. The decision immediately drew criticism. Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn said, "How do you give a man who was suspended for only 10 days more than $800,000? Morse was fired, but $1.6 million?"

Jackson's aunt, Nancy Goins, said, "It seems they're getting millions of dollars for beating someone. "I don't have any dislike for police officers, they have a hard job. But when you run into officers who take it upon themselves to do things to others they would not want done to themselves, that's not fair, and that's not right."

Jackson's lawyer, Cameron Stewart, said, "Here's a guy that basically got off after being caught beating a teenager on videotape. He was terminated, and rightfully so, and he goes and files a lawsuit and is awarded over a million dollars?"

The beating occurred after Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies were talking to Jackson's father about expired registration tags on his car. Jackson had come out of the station's snack shop. When a deputy led Jackson to a police car and told him to sit down, Jackson refused. This led to a scuffle, and Inglewood police officers who had shown up joined in. They wrestled Jackson to the ground and put handcuffs on him. Morse then lifted Jackson's limp body, slammed him against the police car and punched him. An internal police investigation deemed that the amount of force used was "reasonable."

Observers say the jury's decision may have a chilling effect on future attempts to rein in violent cops.

Morse and Darvish still face a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Jackson. However, this latest decision shows that we cannot look to the criminal injustice system to put an end to police violence. Only a movement in the streets can do this.
Evan Kornfeld, Los Angeles

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