To have activists groups call for firing the Greensboro city attorney is nothing new. In fact, it should probably be on the job description.
True to form, Thursday, June 18, groups were calling for City Attorney Chuck Watts to be fired for what Watts characterized in an email letter to city councilmembers as, “an impromptu update on the Marcus Smith litigation.”
It is worth noting that the “impromptu update” came at the very end of a meeting that lasted almost six hours.
In that email to the council, Watts states, “While I said that there was no ‘stay.’ What I meant was that there was no effort on our part to delay the ultimate outcome of the litigation. I think I said that too. Our effort was to delay the beginning of the discovery period, not the whole case. I didn’t see that as a stay but one might use that term, and we did in the pleadings, but it would more precisely be a temporary limited stay.”
Watts lists a number of ways the city could have attempted to delay the trial, if that had been its intent. He notes, “We were able to reach agreement with the other side on all of those time frames except the issue of when discovery would start. Our reason for asking for the delay to the start of the discovery period was principled. It’s unfair to start the discovery period clock when one side knows who its opponent is and the other side does not.”
What is in question is who are the Marcus Smith’s heirs. The parents of Marcus Smith, Mary and George Smith, brought the lawsuit, and the defendants, Greensboro et al, were led to believe the parents were the heirs, but it recently came to light that Marcus Smith may have three or more children. If Marcus Smith does have children they would be his heirs, not his parents, and would need to be represented in the wrongful death lawsuit.
At a hearing, on Thursday, federal Magistrate Judge Joe Webster gave the plaintiffs (Mary and George Smith) until June 26 to come up with a timeframe to establish who the heirs are and respond to the court.
Marcus Smith died on Sept. 8, 2018, after being restrained by Greensboro police officers with a Ripp Hobble device prior to being transported by Guilford County Emergency Medical Services.
The wrongful death lawsuit brought by Mary and George Smith named as defendants Greensboro, Guilford County the Greensboro police officers involved and the EMS personnel on the scene.