After over a decade, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a wrongful death award for the mother of a man from New Haven who was shot and killed in 1997.
Many may recall the case, as it lead to significant discussions regarding race relations in Connecticut thereafter. In April 1997, an African American man was shot four times by an East Haven police officer after a chase that started in East Haven and concluded in New Haven.
The police officer involved contended he shot the deceased in self-defense. A jury found in favor of the police officer. The town of East Haven, though, was found to be liable for the fatality, and the jury awarded the victim’s mother $2.5 million. After a second trial was held, the award was decreased to $900,000.
The town was found liable on the basis that it had a “policy of deliberate racial indifference” that resulted in the fatality. The Circuit Court disagreed, finding that the mother of the deceased had not shown the shooting took place because of “deliberate indifference” to police officers’ misconduct toward minorities.
Although the court indicated that the evidence “unquestionably showed instances of reprehensible and at times illegal and unconstitutional conduct by individual officers of the East Haven Police Department,” it did not believe the mother of the deceased proved the town was aware of or condoned the police officers’ misconduct.
As a result of the issues addressed in this case, Connecticut passed a law banning racial profiling. Nevertheless, issues of racial bias continue to arise in East Haven, as four police officers were recently charged with misconduct toward minorities.