CA Supreme Court Upholds $8 Million Verdict to Children of Man Killed by LA Sheriff’s Deputy’s Knee-On-Neck

 

                    Attorney Olu Orange

After the verdict, Attorney Olu Orange, Professor of Trial Advocacy at USC and appellate counsel for three of Burley’s children, stated “Today’s decision by the Court conclusively restores one of the most powerful tools black and brown Californians have in pursuing justice against police officers who kill people they are sworn to protect. The County of LA has been hell-bent on denying justice to five little children. Their father was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy who gave courtroom demonstrations of deputy gang signs and the knee-on-neck maneuver he used to kill his victim. That ends today.”

 

San Francisco, CA — Today, the Supreme Court of California upheld an $8 million dollar verdict awarded to the five children of Daren Dwaine Burley, a 29 year-old black man who was beaten and killed by a knee-on-neck maneuver by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies in Compton, CA on August 12, 2012.

Burley’s youngest daughter, Trayshawn, as well as his two sons, Dylan and Daniel, were represented on appeal by Olu Orange of Orange Law Offices, P.C. & Michael Seplow of Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes, LLP both in Los Angeles. Burley’s other two daughters, Breniyah and Brejanae, were represented by Norman Pine of Pine, Tillett, Pine LLP in Sherman Oaks. Orange and Pine argued the children’s case before the Court.
The excessive force and negligence case was originally filed in LA Superior Court against the County of Los Angeles and seven individual deputies as defendants for killing Burley during a service call. In response, defendants alleged that Burley was under the influence of drugs and resisting arrest. However, witnesses testified and demonstrated in court that while Burley lay on the ground unresponsive, multiple deputies mounted his back and one, Deputy David Aviles, used a knee on the back of his neck, preventing him from breathing. The coroner’s autopsy report indicated that suffocation of the brain and police “restraint maneuvers” were factors in Burley’s death.
At trial, the jury found that Aviles acted intentionally when causing Burley’s death. Under existing law, Aviles’ intentional acts would make him and the County 100% responsible for paying the verdict. However, Aviles and the County successfully argued in the lower appellate courts that the children’s verdict should be reduced because Burley’s actions leading up to his death were negligent.
At issue on Appeal to the Supreme Court of California was whether Burley’s mistakes leading up to his death would reduce the verdict awarded to Burley’s children for Aviles’ intentional acts causing Burley’s death. The Supreme Court of California unanimously found that the children’s verdict stands. The negligence of a victim of police battery does not reduce the responsibility of the police officer.
After the verdict, Attorney Olu Orange, Professor of Trial Advocacy at USC and appellate counsel for three of Burley’s children, stated “Today’s decision by the Court conclusively restores one of the most powerful tools black and brown Californians have in pursuing justice against police officers who kill people they are sworn to protect. The County of LA has been hell-bent on denying justice to five little children. Their father was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy who gave courtroom demonstrations of deputy gang signs and the knee-on-neck maneuver he used to kill his victim. That ends today.”
Orange’s co-counsel, Michael Seplow, stated, “Today the Court has confirmed the critical principle that when an officer commits an intentional battery and uses excessive force to kill someone, he cannot try to offload responsibility for his illegal conduct by pointing at the negligent actions of his victim.”

Attorneys John Sweeney, Olu Orange, Yasmin Fardghassemi, Carl Douglas and Jamon Hicks won the verdict at the original trial.

Case: B.B., a Minor, etc., et al. v. County of Los Angeles et al., S250734

Argument video here: https://jcc.granicus.com/player/clip/1584?view_id=12

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