The federal judge – in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city of Greensboro by Mary and George Smith, the parents of Marcus Deon Smith, who died on Sept. 8, 2018, after being in police custody – denied three motions filed on behalf of the Smiths.

US Magistrate Judge Joe Webster, in his order, also reprimands the plaintiffs (the Smiths) for attempting to try the case in the court of public opinion.

The Smiths motion – to unseal or make public the police body worn camera footage of 50 incidents that had been provided to the plaintiffs under seal – was denied.

Webster in his order states, “On its face, Plaintiff’s motion seemingly seeks to make the Exhibits public for nothing more than the improper purpose of promoting a public scandal.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “It was a good ruling and I appreciate the judge’s finding that: ‘The parties should focus their energy on resolving this case through the court system, not in the court of public opinion … (noting parties have an obligation to avoid using the media “to influence public opinion … to gain an advantage at trial).’”

During the public comment periods of City Council meetings, a number of people have spoken about the police body worn camera videos of 50 incidents where police used the Ripp Hobble device to restrain people.  City Attorney Chuck Watts noted none of the speakers have a legal right to see the videos, and if any had seen the videos it would appear to be in violation of a court order. 

The city had to get permission for the members of the City Council to view the videos from a North Carolina Superior Court judge.  The judge granted members of the City Council the right to view the police body worn camera videos with the condition that they are not to speak publicly about the contents of the videos.

Marcus Smith was restrained by a Ripp Hobble device, commonly referred to as “hogtying,” before he died, and his death was ruled a “homicide” by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of North Carolina.

Judge Webster also denied a motion to extend discovery and for the City of Greensboro to provide the police body worn camera footage of an additional 28 incidents where the Ripp Hobble was used.  Greensboro had already provided the Smiths with the police body worn camera videos of 50 incidents where the Ripp Hobble was used.

And Webster denied a motion to allow the Smiths to amend the complaint to add a claim of “widespread custom or practice theory of Monell municipal liablity.”

The court had earlier denied this request and found that the allegation that new evidence not previously available was not convincing and that the request to amend the complaint had been filed 11 months after the deadline for such amendments.