The California Supreme Court published an opinion Monday that restored an $8-million jury award to the children of a man who died after struggling with LA County Sheriff's deputies in Compton in 2012.
Darren Burley died 10 days after deputies struck him in the head with flashlights, shocked him with a stun gun, handcuffed and hogtied his legs, and kneeled on his back until he lost consciousness, according to court records. Deputies were called because Burley had allegedly attacked a woman, and when deputies arrived, he resisted arrest.
"In all likelihood, the only reason Darren Burley is not a household name is that his killing was not caught on videotape as Floyd's was," Associate Justice Goodwin Liu wrote in a concurring opinion, referencing the video-recorded death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.
The California Supreme Court found that an appeals court was wrong to reduce the money award to Burley's family by 60%, writing that the apportionment, or division of the award, was not allowed because the alleged acts of the deputies were intentional, rather than accidental.
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"Now the Burley kids will get 100% of their verdict, which is now $11-million," the family's attorney John E. Sweeney told the I-Team, who explained the increased amount was due to interest accrued while the verdict was being appealed by LA County lawyers.
Had the appeals court decision been upheld, "it would really have had a devastating effect, not just on police excessive force cases, but all cases," Sweeney said.
The LA County Counsel's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
According to the Supreme Court file Burley fought with deputies almost as soon as he was confronted on the afternoon of August 3, 2012, after the deputies had been dispatched to a report of an assault.
Burley had his fists clenched, was foaming at the mouth, and had a blank stare, leading deputies to suspect he might be under the influence of drugs.
One of the deputies knocked Burley to the ground as Burley began to chase a woman, and Burley threw punches at the deputies as they tried to restrain him, according to the court file.
One deputy tried to pin Burley's body to the ground by, "pressing one knee into the center of his back, at the top of his diaphragm, and another knee down on the back of his head, near the back of his neck," the court record said.
A witness testified she saw a deputy strike Burley in the head with a flashlight 7 to 10 times and that Burley appeared to be gasping for air. A deputy said he felt Burley, "go limp," and summoned paramedics, who were waiting nearby.
Burley was unconscious when he was first treated at the scene and died 10 days later. The LA County Coroner's Office determined his death was caused by brain death and swelling from lack of oxygen, "following cardiac arrest due to status post-restraint maneuvers or behavior associated with cocaine, [PCP] and cannabinoids intake," the court file said.