Lawsuit Filed By Parents Of White Man Who Shot Black Man
Shortly after the George Floyd murder, civil unrest gripped the United States. In Omaha, a bar owner shot and killed a Black man during this unrest resulting in manslaughter charges being filed against him.
The scene played out like this. The bar owners heard someone throw something through their window. Thinking the bar had been shot up, the victim and his son pursued individuals who they thought were responsible down the street. This was incredibly unwise. A fight broke out between the bar owner and various individuals in the street. The bar owner was taken down from behind and then held down by another man. The bar owner was able to fire a single shot over his shoulder while the man was on his back. The shot killed the man.
The bar owner was later charged with manslaughter. Witnesses said the gunshot victim was attempting to disarm an active shooter. The bar owner claims he fired a warning shot to get the man off his back. He was indicted by a grand jury and later took his own life. Initially, it looked as though the prosecutor would not press charges, but eventually, the case was placed before a grand jury that voted to indict.
The parents of the shooter and suicide victim filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the County claiming that the prosecutors violated the defendant’s constitutional rights which led to his untimely death. The lawsuit has since been dismissed.
The shooter retreated to the West Coast after the indictment and took his life rather than face trial for manslaughter. The attorney who agreed to represent the parents in this matter has represented several of the January 6 rioters and former notable gunman Kyle Rittenhouse. In order to file a lawsuit on this basis, the parents would have been required to allege that the named defendants violated the Constitutional rights of the shooter. In this case, the lawyer contended that the two prosecutors conspired to make false and inflammatory claims in the media to deprive the shooter of a fair trial. The parents alleged that the prosecutor characterized the defendant as “a racist and a killer”.
What is puffery? Well, it’s when a lawyer overstates the quality of their case the same way a salesperson may overstate the quality of their product. Essentially, the prosecution went before the public and stated that the defendant was a racist murderer. The defendant received death threats as a result and had to remove himself from the community to ensure his safety. When the indictment came back, he took his own life to avoid trial. The judge ruled that because the prosecutor made no statements of fact (rather a statement of opinion on the quality of the prosecution’s case) it did not violate the Constitutional rights of the defendant. The suit was dismissed on the grounds of puffery.
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