The request by the City of Greensboro to stay discovery in the wrongful death lawsuit over the death of Marcus Deon Smith was denied.
US District Court Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina Joe Webster denied the request in a written order on Thursday, July 2.
The City of Greensboro, Guilford County, eight Greensboro police officers and two paramedics with Guilford County Emergency Medical Services are being sued by Mary and George Smith, the parents of Marcus Smith, who died Sept. 8, 2018 after being restrained by Greensboro police officers with a Ripp Hobble restraint device that binds a person’s hands and feet behind their back.
The autopsy lists the restraint as one of the causes of Marcus Smith’s death from cardiopulmonary arrest along with drugs, alcohol and heart disease.
The autopsy also classifies the death as a homicide.
The stay was requested by Greensboro et al after it was learned that Marcus Smith may be the father of three children. A case to determine if Marcus Smith is the father is currently in North Carolina Superior Court.
If the court determines that Marcus Smith did have children who are his heirs, then his parents are not heirs.
Greensboro argued that if the parents who filed the lawsuit are not the heirs that could affect the discovery and the heirs of Marcus Smith should be determined and represented before discovery began in the lawsuit.
Webster did not agree. He denied the stay and ordered discovery to begin immediately and to be completed by April 2, 2021.
The request for a stay of discovery unlike most legal maneuvering in a lengthy lawsuit received some media coverage. It became an even hotter topic after Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts at a public City Council meeting said, “There is no stay being requested.”
The supporters of Marcus Smith and the Smith family called Watts a “liar” and demanded that he be fired.
Watts in a letter emailed to city councilmembers said, “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.”
Regardless of what it is called the city’s request for a stay has been denied and the case will move forward.
Greensboro is being represented in the Smith lawsuit by Alan Duncan of Mullins Duncan Harrell & Russell. Duncan is the former chairman of the Guilford County Board of Education and a current member of the North Carolina State Board of Education.