Police brutality lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm confirm that a jurors in Chicago awarded a mother $8.5 million in a trial surrounding the death of her 18-year-old son. The teen was shot in the back by Chicago police in 2007 during a police chase on the West Side.
The Cook County jury took only three hours to deliberate and determine that the CPD’s side of the story simply did not add up. The teen, Aaron Harrison, was hanging out on the corner of Roosevelt Road and Francisco Avenue with some friends in August 2007 when two police cars on special patrol pulled up to them. One officer, John Fitzgerald, testified that he believed a man had a gun in the group.
That person, he now acknowledges, was Aaron Harrison. In his testimony Fitzgerald contended that Harrison looked in his direction, placed his hand near his waistband, and moved what he perceived to be a gun. Fitzgerald then got out of the car and chased Harrison into a nearby alley, where he claims Harrison pointed a chrome gun in his direction, while the two were still running, and refused to drop it.
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Ultimately, Fitzgerald fired one shot into Harrison’s back, which severed his spine and exited through his neck, instantly killing him. In its review, the Independent Police Review Authority ruled the shooting justified, as a black 9 mm handgun was found near Harrison’s body after he was shot.
During trial, witnesses stated that they did not ever see Harrison with a gun, alleging that they knew him to be unarmed and claiming a police cover-up. One witness opined the gun merely ‘suddenly appeared’ next to Harrison after his death. Jurors were initially reluctant to believe such a cover-up, however, the police story failed to make sense to them when they acted out the scene.
Jurors were suspicious of the CPD’s story for a number of reasons, firstly because Fitzgerald’s fellow officers, who were at the scene and saw him run after Harrison, failed to radio Fitzgerald’s partner or draw their own weapons. The suit filed by Harrison’s mother was the second trial in connection to this case. The first ended in May 2013 in a jury deadlock.
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Most police-involved shooting cases are extremely difficult to prove due to a number of factors, such as lack of witnesses. In this case, however, there were at least five witnesses, including Fitzgerald’s fellow officers, whose testimonies were less than credible to say the least. Harrison’s mother stated that she hoped the verdict would send a message to other families who doubt the police-version of how their children were killed at gunpoint.
The city of Chicago has already spent about $54 million this year on police misconduct cases, many of which stemming from the disgraced former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. The most recent payment to victims of this man’s Midnight Crew torture ring was to the tune of $10 million. The man, Eric Cane, was imprisoned for 25 years for a murder he did not commit, but was tortured into confessing to under Burge’s watch.
A doctor who treated Caine after his interrogation stated that there was physical evidence of torture and medical evidence of abuse. Caine confessed to the murder after two Midnight Crew detectives handcuffed him to a chair and beat and threatened him, puncturing his eardrum, among other injuries. Caine was given a life sentence based nothing more on his coerced confession.
In 2011, a judge threw out Caine’s confession, dismissed the indictment, and gave Caine a certificate of innocence. Coincidentally, on the day Caine was released from prison, Jon Burge was spending his first full day at a federal prison in North Carolina. He was sentenced to just four-and-a-half years there for lying about his knowledge of CPD torture.
So far, Chicago has paid about $70 million to victims of Burge’s Midnight Crew, and three others are currently in the process of litigation. One case involves Ronald Kitchen, who was exonerated in 2009 after over two decades in prison, 13 of them on death row. He was convicted in 1988 for killing two women and three children on the South Side. His civil trial against the CPD is set to begin this fall.
Police misconduct lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those victimized by rogue police officers and their families. If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed in such an incident, you have important legal rights, and should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.