FERGUSON, Mo. – A federal judge this week approved a secret civil settlement of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown over his 2014 fatal shooting.
Apollo Carey, city attorney for Ferguson, said Friday that the city’s insurance company paid $1.5 million “on behalf of multiple defendants.”
The settlement amount was not mentioned in U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber’s order approving it. He wrote only that the gross amount is “fair and reasonable compensation for this wrongful death claim and is in the best interests of each Plaintiff.”
Webber said the split of the amount between Michael Brown Sr. and Lezley McSpadden “is fair and reasonable,” and the agreement “provides for a reasonable amount” for attorney fees and expenses.
Settlements involving public entities are generally open records under Missouri law, but Webber ordered it sealed and said that it should be considered a closed record under the state’s Sunshine Law “due to the adverse impact to Plaintiffs should it be disclosed.”
“Disclosure of the terms of the settlement agreement,” Webber wrote, “could jeopardize the safety of individuals involved in this matter, whether as witnesses, parties, or investigators.”
State law does require that the settlement amount be released. The limit of the city’s insurance is $3 million.
Brown Sr. and McSpadden sued the city of Ferguson, former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson and former police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, in 2014.
Their lawsuit said that a police culture of pervasive hostility toward blacks led to the death of Brown, 18, on Aug. 9, 2014. Wilson used excessive and unreasonable force, the suit says. It also claimed that the city’s law enforcement practices “contributed to police officers’ devaluation of African-American life in the city of Ferguson.”
Police routinely stopped or detained blacks without valid reasons, spoke to them in disparaging language and used excessive force in their encounters, in a pattern of misconduct that led to Brown’s death, the parents alleged.
The lawsuit extensively cited a scathing Department of Justice report from 2015 that found pervasive racial bias in Ferguson’s police department and detailed what then-Attorney General Eric Holder called “routine” constitutional violations by law enforcement.
The defendants denied the allegations and sought to have the lawsuit thrown out.
The case had appeared headed to trial. The parties disclosed expert witnesses to the court last month and were scheduled to turn over depositions this summer. A jury trial was set for February.
A grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute him.