77-year-old Milwaukee man who killed teen neighbor denies liability in civil suit
- Article by: Bruce Vielmetti
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- April 30, 2014 - 11:19 PM
A 77-year-old Milwaukee man serving life in prison for gunning down his 13-year-old neighbor continues to fight a wrongful-death lawsuit by the victim’s parents.
John H. Spooner was convicted in July of first-degree intentional homicide in the death in May 2012 of Darius Simmons. The jury rejected Spooner’s insanity defense. He has said he plans to appeal.
Spooner had suspected the boy of stealing guns from his home a few days earlier, and he expressed frustration at the police response to his complaint. The morning of the shooting, he hinted to an alderman that he might be taking the law into his own hands.
Less than a month after the crime, Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry — who witnessed her son’s slaying — sued Spooner for wrongful death, though he had few assets, and most were used to pay for his criminal defense. Darius Simmons Sr., the boy’s father, later joined the lawsuit.
Larry’s attorney, Jonathan Safran, said Wednesday that she knows there is little if anything to recover from Spooner, but that she wants a judgment of about $658,000 on the record just in case Spooner would somehow later come into some money, perhaps through a book or movie deal.
The civil case was on hold during the criminal case. After Spooner’s conviction, Larry sought summary judgment, meaning a ruling in her favor because no facts or law are in question.
But Spooner, who has hired attorney Basil Loeb, opposed the motion.
In an affidavit filed in April, Spooner states, “I did not intentionally cause bodily harm to Darius Simmons, Jr. I was provoked by him and his family and I was victimized on a number of occasions.
“I did not negligently inflict emotional distress on Patricia Larry. If anything any distress was caused by the City of Milwaukee Police Department who held Patricia Larry in a squad car while her son was dying.”
Spooner contends any damages suffered by Larry are “speculative.”
A hearing was set Wednesday on the plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment. But Circuit Judge Kevin Martens rescheduled the matter after Loeb said he learned only Tuesday that Spooner had missed a deadline to respond to some pleadings.
He told the judge that Spooner had not told him, when he was hired in March, that the pleadings already had been served.
Well before his criminal trial, Spooner spoke of his background, beliefs and frustrations in two jailhouse interviews.
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