The City Council released some information about the lawsuit over the death of Marcus Deon Smith at the Jan. 5 City Council meeting.
The public comment period at City Council meetings has been dominated by comments about the death of Marcus Smith and the wrongful death lawsuit filed by his parents, Mary and George Smith, for the past two years.
Marcus Smith died on Sept. 8, 2018 of cardiopulmonary arrest after police had restrained him in handcuffs and a Ripp Hobble device in a position that is commonly called hogtying. Smith had not been arrested but was being restrained to be transported to the hospital by Guilford County Emergency Medical Services. His death was ruled a homicide.
The City Council took advantage of the COVID-19 restrictions which allows it to hold virtual meetings, to dispense with public comments from April through September. But starting in October, people were once again allowed to comment at City Council meetings and the public comment period continues to be dominated by comments about the Marcus Smith case.
At the Jan. 5 meeting, former civil rights attorney Lewis Pitts asked if the City Council had “offered any range of money that would reflect that black lives matter to settle this case.”
City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson answered, “Yes.”
Pitts then asked, “Would you tell us what that range is?”
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “No.”
In December, city councilmembers talked about how much they wanted to settle the case, but did not reveal that they had made a settlement offer.
Hester Petty, who also spoke about the Marcus Smith lawsuit, said that City Attorney Chuck Watts had sent her an email which stated, “The likelihood is that this case will get dismissed in summary judgment or if the case goes to trail there will be a verdict for the defendants [Greensboro] giving the plaintiffs [Mary and George Smith] nothing.”
Petty also said that in the email Watts said that even in the event the city lost the case the plaintiffs were “likely to get less than six figures.”
Both Petty and Pitts made the point that Mary and George Smith, through their attorneys, have stated that any children of Marcus Smith would fairly share in any settlement or judgment.
However, an attorney familiar with the case said that it was more complicated than that because Mary and George Smith filed the lawsuit as the heirs of their son Marcus Smith. If the courts recognize that Marcus Smith did have children, those children would be the heirs of his estate, not his parents. In that case the lawsuit by Mary and George Smith may be dismissed because they would lack standing to sue.
The attorney also said that if the city settled with Mary and George Smith and the courts later recognized that Marcus Smith had children, the mothers or guardians of his children could then file a lawsuit against the city as the rightful heirs.