Illinois appeals judges cut jury price for whistleblower who sought to strengthen Chicago police oversight

An Illinois appeals court on Friday slashed the bulk of a $ 2.75 million award by a Cook County jury to Lorenzo Davis, a falsely fired former city of Chicago investigator for denouncing an agency that regularly let the police off the hook for questionable shootings.

A three-judge appeal panel reduced Davis’s emotional distress award portion from $ 2 million to $ 100,000.

The 26-page order did not touch $ 751,470 awarded to Davis for lost wages and benefits – which the city did not dispute in its appeal – leaving Davis with a total of $ 851,470 .

The $ 2 million “would be completely unprecedented in Illinois” and was “so significant as to shock judicial conscience,” the order says, referring to Davis’ testimony at the 2018 trial in his trial for the dismissal.

“The complainant actually downplayed the severity of his emotional distress, stating that he had sought no medical help for the depression resulting from his dismissal and admitting that the depression was” not severe enough to seek help. “”, says the order, issued by justice Mary K. Rochford with justices Thomas E. Hoffman and Mathias W. Delort in agreement.

In a written statement about the order, a lawyer for Davis said the dismissed investigator “continues to be devalued by the city he has dedicated 37 years to serve.”

Lawyer Torreya L. Hamilton said it was disappointing that the appellate judges showed a “willingness to substitute their judgment for that of the jury.”

She said Davis could appeal Friday’s order to the Illinois Supreme Court and could also opt for a new trial over the damage caused by the emotional distress.

But Hamilton said money had never been Davis’ main concern.

“When jurors ruled in his favor, they refused to believe the lies that city witnesses told at trial,” Hamilton said. “The jury’s rejection of the city’s misconduct is valid. “

Dismissed for refusing to modify the conclusions

Davis was fired in 2015 from the Independent Police Review Authority, an event first reported by WBEZ. He had worked at the agency for seven years both as an investigator and, later, as a supervising investigator.

Before joining IPRA – now known as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability – Davis spent nearly two decades as a teacher in Chicago public schools, then 23 years as a Chicago police officer. , earning a law degree as he rose to the rank of commanding officer. He retired from the DPC in 2004.

“All my life I have helped the citizens of Chicago in every way I can,” Davis told the 2018 trial in his trial. “And I was there, improving policing, and I was fired by someone who made policing worse.”

Davis was referring to Scott Ando, ​​the chief administrator of IPRA who fired him. Ando, ​​a former federal anti-drug officer, was appointed head of the agency by then-mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013. Ando was kicked out of the agency in disgrace as his credibility plummeted in the process. outcry over a dashcam video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting fatally. teenager Laquan McDonald.

IPRA’s responsibilities included investigating the shootings by the police. Between its inception in 2007 and Davis’ sacking in 2015, the IPRA had never found an officer at fault for an on-duty shooting.

Ando said he himself examined 250 to 300 officer shots and found none unwarranted. When the investigative team Davis oversaw found officers at fault for some of the shootings, Ando ordered them to change their findings and rewrite their analyzes. Davis refused, which led to his dismissal.

City Challenges Jury Prize

Davis’ lawsuit argued his dismissal was retaliation and violated Illinois whistleblower law.

After hearing testimony for six days, the jury deliberated only 55 minutes, returning with the award of $ 2.8 million for Davis. This compensation included $ 800,000 for lost wages and benefits – an amount the trial judge reduced to $ 751,470.

“Lorenzo has succeeded in exposing the corruption plaguing IPRA under Scott Ando,” Hamilton said on Friday.

The city challenged the sentence in the court of appeal. During January 7 oral arguments Before the three-judge panel, Chicago Assistant Corporation associate attorney Justin A. Houppert argued that Davis’s lawyers had stoked “passion and prejudice” against the city by “injecting graphic representations” of shootings by police officers during the trial. “There is simply no evidence to justify an award of this magnitude,” Houppert said.

Hamilton replied that the jury prize was appropriate because the dismissal “destroyed” his career and he had “lost the purpose of his life”.

mitchell chip WBEZ’s West Side studio reports on the police. Follow him on @ ChipMitchell1.

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