A federal judge Monday found that lawyers for the city engaged in misconduct when they failed to turn over a key recording of a police radio transmission to lawyers for the family of a man shot to death by Chicago Police officers in 2011.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang reversed a jury’s decision that found Officers Gildardo Sierra and Raoul Mosqueda didn’t wrongfully kill Darius Pinex. The judge granted Pinex’s family a new trial in their lawsuit against the city.
Jordan Marsh, a highly experienced attorney for the city, knew about the recording before the lawsuit went to trial in March 2015, Chang said in a 72-page opinion filed Monday.
“The court has no choice but to conclude, based on the record evidence, that Marsh intentionally withheld this information from the court,” the judge wrote.
Another city attorney, Thomas Aumann, “failed to make a reasonable inquiry, as required by the discovery rules, to search for the recording,” Chang added.
The conduct by Marsh and Aumann “thwarted” the ability of lawyers for Pinex’s family to prepare for trial, Chang said.
“Attorneys who might be tempted to bury late-surfacing information need to know that, if discovered, any verdict they win will be forfeit and their clients will pay the price. They need to know it is not worth it,” Chang wrote.
In addition to ordering a new trial, Chang said the city and Marsh are jointly responsible for paying attorneys’ fees to the lawyers for Pinex’s family.
Chang’s decision is another black mark for the city following last year’s release of the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting knife-wielding teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke is charged with murder in that case.
Pinex was shot on Jan. 7, 2011, after Mosqueda and Sierra stopped his car in the Englewood neighborhood.
Mosqueda said they curbed the Oldsmobile Aurora because the car matched the description of a car other officers tried to stop about three hours earlier in a different police district.
Mosqueda said he heard about the wanted vehicle in an Office of Emergency Management and Communications radio broadcast — and not directly from the officers involved in the earlier encounter with the car.
Mosqueda claimed the broadcast warned the Aurora was involved in a shooting or a gun might have been in the car.
The officers said they fired at Pinex — the driver of the Aurora — because he tried to drive away and was endangering their lives. But lawyers for Pinex’s family said the officers fired an initial shot without any reason, prompting Pinex to flee.
Before the trial, lawyers for Pinex’s family asked the city for the broadcast, but the city said it couldn’t find one.
The Pinex lawyers concluded Mosqueda must have been lying that he heard the broadcast. And that was the theory they planned to present at trial. But during the trial, the city revealed the recording did exist.
“The actual recording did not mention that the Aurora had a gun or that the car was wanted for a shooting, but it did describe an Aurora similar to the one Pinex was driving,” Chang wrote.
Despite the new evidence, a federal jury ruled in favor of the officers and the case was dismissed against them.
“The first trial was unfair and plaintiffs presentation was hurt beyond repair by the surprise,” Chang said in his opinion.
Source: Chicago SunTimes