Greensboro City Councilmember Justin Outling spoke about the lawsuit filed by the family of Marcus Deon Smith at Java with Justin, his monthly meeting with constituents, on Friday, March 12, which because of the pandemic is held on Facebook.
Marcus Smith died of cardiopulmonary arrest on the night of Sept. 8, 2018, after Greensboro police had restrained him with handcuffs and a Ripp Hobble device that is commonly called hogtying. Before being detained by police, Marcus Smith was in a highly agitated state, running in an out of traffic, and was placed in restraints in order to transport him by ambulance to the hospital. His death was ruled a homicide.
At the City Council retreat, Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said that she wanted to add settling the Smith family lawsuit as one of the council’s stated goals for the year.
Outling, who is a partner in the Brooks Pierce law firm, has a different take on the lawsuit filed the by parents of Marcus Smith, Mary and George Smith.
Outling noted that all the police body worn camera videos from that night are available to the public and he said people can watch them and form their own opinions.
He said, “When I look at the video, I don’t see the police as having engaged in misconduct.”
Outling was asked why there had not been a settlement and he said, “There is just not an agreement that has been reached as to the terms to which all sides can agree.”
He added that when the majority of the City Council and the Smith family reach terms to which they can all agree, there will be a settlement.
Outling also said, “It could be dismissed at summary judgment. Quite frankly, there is a strong legal case on behalf of the city.”
He added, “In terms of an actual legal case, it is something that really could be dismissed.”
A motion to dismiss on summary judgment is made before the trial. The judge looks at the evidence presented, and if the judge then determines that even if everything one party is claiming is true that the party would still lose the case, then the case can be dismissed before the trial.
The result of a dismissal at summary judgment is that the city not only would not have to pay the Smith family anything, but also that the city could not legally pay the Smith family.