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Craig Peters

Craig Peters

$8,250,000 – Civil Rights - Largest reported civil rights verdict in the U.S. for a case not involving physical injury or incarceration

TLU Icon April 25, 2024 5:30 PM||TLU n Demand

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On September 20, 2019, at around 6:40 am, Castro Valley Police officers, Deputy Holland and Deputy Pope, in separate patrol cars, go by a local Starbucks strip mall that has had a number of early morning car break ins.They see a car parked in the parking lot, nose in, and there appears to be an individual who is not moving in the driver’s seat.That driver is Aaseylei, the mother of her two passengers: the oldest, Aasyelei, in the back seat, and the younger, Aaottae, in the front passenger seat. The car is a late model silver Cadillac, that is a rental car.The prior auto break-ins in this location had one description in which one of the perpetrators was a young African-American male, and the car was a small gray hatchback. Because of the prior burglaries, the deputies decide to go investigate. Even after confirming that the occupants did not match the description of the suspects, the officers demanded identification, and then, when they refused to provide their identification, detained all three African-American female plaintiffs in handcuffs, each in the back of separate police cars, for about 50 minutes.

The case dealt with the following issues:

1. How to determine which defendants to keep in the case (there were seven officers involved), and which to drop

2. Determining what evidence to present, and how to present it given a judge-imposed time limitation of 8 hours to put on all evidence, including cross examination.

3. What we did to show that the actions of the police officers were based on race

4. How to establish with the jury that qualified immunity did not apply (this should be a legal issue for the judge to decide)

5. How to empower jurors to right this wrong, and to feel the weight of this wrong, despite there not being physical harm or imprisonment in a jail.

6. How to value this type of harm which did not involve physical harm or imprisonment

The jury unanimously agreed and found that the officers violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, and the County of Alameda ratified their conduct. Each plaintiff was compensated $2,750,000 plus attorney fees and costs. With attorney fees and costs, the total judgment exceeds $10,000,000.

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