The multimillion-dollar settlement reached in a lawsuit brought by the family of a Black Mobile teenager against a White police officer who shot him during a traffic stop has raised eyebrows, given that no criminal charges were filed at either the state and federal levels.
The family of Michael Moore, who in 2016 was shot by Mobile police officer Harold Hurst, recently settled a federal wrongful death lawsuit with Hurst over the shooting. The settlement has raised questions about how the case played out more than four years ago.
The Department of Justice declined to bring charges against Hurst at the time. The case also went to a Mobile County grand jury, but it chose not to indict.
Kenyen Brown, who was U.S. Attorney for Mobile at the time and would’ve been one of the decision-makers on whether to bring charges against Hurst or not, said the legal standard to bring a criminal case is higher than it is to bring a civil case. A civil case can be decided by a preponderance, or majority, of the evidence leaning one way or another; a criminal case is almost always decided by a much higher standard, he said.
“At first blush, it tends to send mixed signals,” Brown said.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich declined to comment when reached for this story. However, she said her comments at the time the grand jury refused to indict Hurst would suffice now.
At a press conference in November 2016, Rich said the grand jury heard over 40 hours of testimony and reviewed evidence collected in four separate investigations conducted by the Mobile Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office.
“I hope the public understands that every effort was exhausted in this case to uncover every fact and every bit of evidence that was out there,” Rich said at the time. “The fact that the FBI offered $10,000 for any video evidence, the fact that there have been thousands of hours put into this case by four different agencies in conducting their own independent investigation tells you the magnitude of time and attention this case has received.”
Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson responded to the scene in his district back in 2016. He and others have had lingering questions about it since that time and the settlement just reinforces those same doubts, he said in an interview with Lagniappe.
“To me, it says there was a lack of transparency as to what happened,” Richardson said. “I was not satisfied with that case at all.”
Like many others, Richardson continues to question the treatment of Moore, even after he was shot, and the lack of video evidence surrounding the shooting.
“The police department failed,” he said. “The body laid there in the street for hours.”
After the shooting, Richardson and other members of the Mobile City Council pushed for body cameras for police officers. The council also approved a resolution forming the Police Citizens Community Relations Advisory Council at that time. The advisory council was just recently reformed.
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