JURY AWARDS $1.1 MILLION TO PALMDALE TEENAGER SHOT BY LASD DEPUTY WHILE ON BIKE WITH TOY GUN
This week a jury awarded 19-year old William Fetters $1,127,600 in medical bills and damages for pain and suffering, after Fetters was shot on May 10, 2009 by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, Scott Sorrow.
Fetters, who was then 15-years -old, was riding his bicycle, and playing a tag-like game with his brother and friends, when he was shot.
Deputy Sorrow testified at trial that Fetters was brandishing a realistic looking toy gun that he refused to drop. This, the deputy said, caused him to fear for his life and that of his partner so he fired a single shot at Fetters.
The teenager was hit in the rear of the side of his chest.
According to Fetters, matters went as follows: he was riding his bike down the street toward a local baseball diamond, playing “cops and robbers” with his brother and friends as they went. As the boys rode, Sorrow approached in his car and asked Fetters to stop riding and drop the toy gun he was holding, and that he dropped it right away. After that, Fetters said, the deputy shot him. Then, as he lay on the ground wounded, yelling that the gun was just a toy, Sorrows handcuffed him.
(Sorrows also testified that he handcuffed the wounded boy after shooting him and seeing that the gun was on the ground and out of his reach.)
At the trial—and according to interview transcripts—-Sorrows insisted that Fetters did not drop his toy gun when ordered to do so, while Fetters said the opposite. The teen said he was scared, and when the deputy barked the order, he dropped the gun immediately, then tried to get off his bike, at which point Sorrows shot him.
Oddly, according to Fetters’ attorney Bradley Gage, in an earlier version of an interview transcript that was presented at a hearing for the case in 2012, Sorrows appears to say that that Fetters did drop the gun.
But for this month’s trial, said Gage, the same transcript was amended to read that Fetters did not drop the gun. When questioned about the discrepancy in trial, Gage said that Sorrows discribed the first version as a “typo.”
(Here is the first version of the interview with Sparrow: EXHIBIT 35 – 1st INTERVIEW)
About the matter of whether Sorrow shot Fetters “with malice,” which the court was also asked to consider, the jury as unable to not a verdict. Thus a mistrial was declared for that part of the case. The question of “malice” is due to be tried again in mid April.
Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said that the department strongly disagrees with this week’s jury judgment, and that Fetters was holding what appeared to be a real handgun which he pointed at the deputies when he was shot.
WHY ARE PEOPLE ARE DYING LIKE CRAZY IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY JAIL?
Reporters Dave Maas and Kelly Davis, have a startling story in San Diego City Beat showing that the jail death capital of California is….San Diego County.
Didn’t see that coming.
Maas and Davis note that jail inmate deaths have been tracked nationally only since 2000, when Congress passed the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) to “help address increasing reports of neglect and abuse in U.S. jails.”
According to Department of Justice statistics tracked from the period of 2000 to 2007, for that time period, San Diego was second in the state, for jail deaths. (Alameda county was first.)
Then when the reporters began gathering stats from 2007 to the present through public records act requests, things got worse for SD, not better. In this newer period, San Diego County was at the top of California’s list—based on a calculation of deaths per 100,000 people (the standardized metric that is most often used for this kind of calculation so that one may compare apples to apples).
Riverside County, Alameda and Los Angeles ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, behind San Diego.
Next the reporters plan to drill down into the county’s figure so try to determine if any of those deaths were preventable.
SCOTUS JUSTICE RUTHIE’S VERY POWERFUL WHISPERS
One of the most to-the-point remarks in this week’s gay marriage hearings was said so softly that many in the court gallery didn’t hear Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s words when she talked about “skim milk.”
Greg Stohr at Bloomberg has a nice story about the physically diminutive, but intellectually and strategically powerful Miz Ruth.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sometimes barely audible when she speaks at the U.S. Supreme Court. That doesn’t mean she isn’t heard loud and clear.
As the court took up same-sex marriage this week for the first time, the 80-year-old justice offered a reminder that she remains a force, the anchor of court’s liberal wing. At various points, she served as the hard-hitting questioner, the voice of experience and a source of wit.
Ginsburg delivered one of the most memorable lines of the two days of arguments when she said yesterday that a federal law limiting benefits to married gay couples would create “two kinds of marriage — the full marriage, and then this sort of skim-milk marriage.”
The quip drew chuckles throughout the packed courtroom. The laughter would have been louder except that many of the 500 onlookers couldn’t hear Ginsburg, whose soft speaking style means her words often get lost in the corners of the courtroom.
Her quiet manner and diminutive stature make Ginsburg an easy justice to underestimate — for those not familiar with her work.
“It is clear that she is respected and even somewhat feared by her adversaries on the bench,” said Garrett Epps, a University of Baltimore law professor who attended the argument.
The skim-milk analogy was her way of “explaining in clear terms — terms that will be remembered and carried forward to judges and citizens outside the court — what is wrong with the idea that the federal government can withhold the title of marriage to couples legally wedded in their states,” Epps said….
The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin has a terrific profile of Ginsburg in the New Yorker earlier this month, but regrettably it’s hidden behind their paywall. However, if you don’t have your own subscription and can’t snatch a friend’s magazine, Toobin was interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross about his profile, and it’s very good (and covers many of the same points as he did in the profile).
Who pays Steve Whitmore?
Are taxpayer dollars used to pay Steve Whitmore to undermine the confidence and respect that we teach our children to place in our impartial jury base criminal justice system?
Do L.A. County Board of Supervisors have a complete up-to-date financial disclosure statement from Whitmore?
This is the SECOND time Sorrows has cost the tax payers because of excessive force. If this guys behavior has been to tried TWICE with him being found in the wrong, WHY DOES HE STILL HAVE A JOB?
From the AV Press.
“It was the second time in less than two years that a jury awarded damages to a plaintiff in a case that involved Sorrow.
In June 2011, a former Palmdale apartment manager who said he was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed in a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies received $575,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $6,000 in punitive damages after jurors found Sorrow acted with malice in that instance.
In that case, apartment manager Noel Bender maintained that deputies had been harassing his tenants after one of their fellow deputies was shot in the shoulder outside the complex on July 12, 2009. The shooter was arrested after a short chase and it was discovered he did not live at the complex, according to the lawsuit.
Gage, who also represented Bender, said that in addition to being roughed up, his client was called an “n-word lover” by Sorrow. Defense attorney Harold Becks denied Sorrow was overly aggressive or that the deputy used racial slurs.
Sorrow already had responded to a previous call at the complex, and deputies went there a total of three times that day, answering complaints that tenants were playing loud music, using drugs and drinking alcohol to excess, Becks said.
Bender was tried and acquitted of resisting arrest and no longer manages the apartment complex, Gage said.
Gage said testimony about the apartment incident was not allowed at the trial over the boy’s shooting, but he expects it will be during the retrial, which will decide only the issue of whether Sorrow acted with malice when he shot the boy.
“The county has decided to do basically a scorched earth practice where it does not matter what the facts are on the case, they’re going to defend their officers to the bitter end,” Gage said.
“Sorrow remains on patrol duty, Whitmore said.”
The deputy responsible for this beat down is also responsible for the same behavior with another hispanic family AND a beat down on a young black girl right after this incident. Said anyone riding their bike after dark was involved with drug dealing. No drugs were found on the young lady. Why is it the LASD can have the DOJ AND FBI on their ass for this exact behavior, but nothing changes up here in the AV?
Celeste, time to balance all of your LASD hit pieces with a few positive events and efforts by the hardworking members of the LASD that occur everyday. I know it goes against the Anti Baca theme that generates the most comments on your site, but its the right thing to do. A little balance won’t hurt. A lot of balance would add credibility. Thank you
I agree with you that LASD deserves some good press, but it is hard to get the recognition to the forefront when there is this in LA Times today:
It is time for the LASD middle management to quit down playing and overstepping their scope of decision making in the name of things like “jokes, plausible deniability, gray area, etc…” It is 2013 and people know better than this especially over a county computer and email server. This was a teachable moment for young deputies and the organization completely fumbled it away. In fact, “a great dude” enabled it as a supervisor…
This seriously undermines the author of the Core Values, Sheriff Baca, and I bet he is tired of seeing the same names, in the same places, doing the same ignorant things. It is only builds credibility to the complaints of favoritism and cronyism that plagues the place today. I bet Sheriff Baca uses this incident to reaffirm his commitment to the Core Values. After all, they are the path to good press in the LA Times in 2013.
This article wouldn’t have been published if the instigators involved weren’t still on the payroll in lieu of a litany of other significant issues. Sorry brother, but the LA Times over powers the Santa Clarita Valley Signal bi-weekly blog/journal every time. I believe the word liability comes to mind.
I would encourages us all to stand up straight, get our knuckles off the ground a bit more, and use the blessing given to us in the form of our brains.
I agree wholeheartedly that there should be positive stories along with the critical pieces.
We’ve done a few small ones, like praising the sheriff’s appointment of Assistant Chief McDonald, and Chief Sexton, both of whom we believe are good hires. But that’s not enough. I’d like to do a large, substantive story on EBI—which I personally believe has the potential to be an important model, and can be of enormous value in the realignment efforts.
All that said, as “Jack Dawson” mentions above, when there are stories that we and the LA Times keep uncovering that point to pressing problems, it is our job to report them.
Moreover, factually reporting wrongdoing or alleged wrongdoing is not considered a “hit piece.” Nor is writing a fact-based essay on a problematic matter. One of the critical roles of journalism is to hold public agencies accountable. That is not being “anti” anybody.
Nevertheless, I do genuinely appreciate the reminder about positive pieces. Sometimes it’s too easy to get lost in reporting only the problems while there are thousands of people in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department doing honorable, professional, deeply important work for LA County—day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after year.
It’s important that we in the media find meaningful ways to recognize that continuing fact—and thus your reminder is very valuable. So thank you. As you said: balance is good.
“Truth,” well said. Celest, be honest, you and your followers love to bash the men and women of law enforcent who do their best to fight real crime. These people you villanize are the same people you will call upon during a time of need. If some thug sticks a pistol in your face and demands your Birkenstocks, are you going to call Father Boyle to save you?
#4: As long as events depicted in Post #3 occur there will remain a deep public suspicion that the “positive events and efforts” you show are nothing more than Ptomekin’s Villages: “Any construction… built solely to deceive…into thinking that some situation is better than it really is.”
Putting lipstick onto a pig, in other words.
I don’t believe this site, individuals who post on it,the Los Angeles Times, or comments and articles can be considered bashing. Most of what has been buried for years has finally come out from under the fourth floor rug. Most of the men and women in this department realize it is an honor and privilege to be a member of the LASD. For those who don’t get it, they are finally being exposed and dealt with. Those who caused the problems with their behavior are responsible for the fallout, not the media or honest department members that have reported it. Negative press has gone on for years. Look at what Baca and Tanaka have built. It’s going to take time to clean up the mess and earn the public’s trust again. Most of us earned our status in this department with good old hard work,not our checkbooks or who we know.
If the current strong dose of scandal reporting from LASD is too bitter for the reader’s palette, then write to Sheriff Baca and request that he release new episodes of soft and fuzzy feel-good LASD.
Sheriff Baca deserves more executive producer credit than we acknowledge.
He exercises significant leverage over local print and TV news. Shrinking budgets and salaries leave our local news outlets ever more beholden to executive producer L. David Baca. He provides the behind-the-yellow-tape-access which makes up a substantial percentage of their daily news content.
Baca packages and releases content spanning the range from who dunnit’ detective to western-style gunfights to hard-hitting insider expose.
For example, a report from the L.A. Times approx 2 1/2 years ago on a scandal involving deputies assigned to MCJ.
Following a controversial in-cell death, a deputy guard patrol cheating ring was uncovered. The deputies kept a binder with copies of the bar codes from the jail patrol routes. They were scanning-in their regular patrol runs without leaving the desk.
How did the L.A. Times get the story. Sheriff Baca released an exclusive – including an account of the scandal, how it got found out and the disciplinary actions handed out to the various participants. The Sheriff even provided a clever title for the newspaper to use for their report – L. David Baca presents “ScannerGate”.
Sheriff Baca understands his audience. In order to stay on top – he needs to fall on his face, hit bottom, public disgrace – followed by the melodramatic confession, plea for forgiveness, renewal of vows to virtue and struggle for redemption. All perfectly timed to winning election to his 5th term of the Office of Sheriff of L.A. County
The sheriffs department gets 22 million to beef up patrol in unincorporated county areas. When are the changes coming. Easy for the man behind the desk. I guess they forgot how it is out there or maybe they never knew. Do the right thing spend the money where it’s supposed to be spent.