Since Greensboro police killed Marcus Smith in September 2018, the maneuverings of the city and its attorneys have asserted through word and action, over and over again, that Smith’s life did not matter.
Smith was experiencing homelessness at the time of his death, yes. And he had mental health issues. Smith was, in fact, in the throes of a mental health crisis when Greensboro police hogtied him and stood by while he died on the ground.
This is indisputable, evidenced by police body-camera video that anyone with the stomach for it has seen.
City lawyers and councilmembers have pointed to a toxicology report that notes he had cocaine and alcohol in his system, suggesting that perhaps Smith’s death was his own fault.
And in the latest series of court filings, the defendants cast aspersions on the Smith legal team, accusing them of colluding with activist groups and a local journalist, sharing confidential discovery items and attempting to try this case in the court of public opinion.
Some of these charges must be evaluated by a judge. But city leaders must know that the court of public opinion has already weighed in on the case of Marcus Smith and the thousands of other Black lives snuffed out by police.
We won’t stand for it. And we insist that every time law enforcement kills in our name — for it is the general population that the police must serve and protect, and not city leaders — there is investigation and accountability.
This is not about money, but there is money on the line. A few weeks ago, Councilmember Michelle Kennedy told TCB that the city offered the Smith family a settlement between $300,000 and $3 million last fall — the Smith family’s lawyers state they never saw such a number. The city has already spent more than $778,277 on this legal defense, for which it has hired outside counsel. George Floyd’s family got $27 million. Killing citizens is bad for business.
Ad we posit that these cases must be tried in the court of public opinion, because when it comes to the deaths of Black folks at the hands of police, we have lost trust in our institutions.
The conviction of former office Derek Chauvin for the killing of Floyd was a first. But just this week in Elizabeth City, the Pasquotank County prosecutor declined to prosecute the police involved in the death of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot in the back of the head while sheriff’s deputies were attempting to serve a warrant.
We say: Enough! Instead of blaming Smith for his own death, instead of casting aspersions on the legal team his survivors gathered and on journalists covering the story, Greensboro officials need to accept their role in Smith’s homicide and make restitution now instead of being combative with the family of the man they killed.
Marcus Smith’s life mattered. Everyone seems to understand that but the defendants.