A Baltimore Circuit Court jury awarded a 55-year-old man $44 million yesterday in a police brutality case in which a police officer was accused of throwing the man headfirst into the concrete wall of a holding cell and rendering him a quadriplegic.
Albert Mosley uses a wheelchair and lives in a private medical facility in Towson.
"I feel good right now, I feel real good," Mosley last night. "I just didn't want him to get away with it. I knew he done something wrong."
City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler said the city will file the appropriate post-trial motions before deciding whether to challenge the decision. "There are certain legal issues we'll raise with the trial court before making a decision on whether to appeal," he said.
The officer named in the suit, Bryan Kershaw, could not be reached for comment. He joined the city police force in 2000 and is now a detective in the homicide unit.
Mosley's attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., said his client cried when told the verdict after a week-and-half trial. "He says it's the first time he ever got justice."
The suit, filed last year, initially sought $40 million and was later increased to $50 million, Murphy said.
The suit followed a June 25, 2003, incident in which Mosley was picked up on a probation violation and brought to the Western District police station. According to the suit and Murphy, Mosley was intoxicated and unruly and made insulting comments to Kershaw, who was supervising five prisoners that night.
"He said some insulting things that should have just rolled off the back of an experienced police officer like water," Murphy said yesterday.
After getting into a shouting match, Kershaw entered the cell, picked up a handcuffed Mosley and tossed him against the wall, Mosley contended in the suit.
For about 45 minutes Mosley lay on the cell floor bleeding from a gash on his left eye while Kershaw and other officers ignored the other prisoner's shouts for help, the suit says.
In charges Kershaw filed against Mosley when the incident occurred, he said he shoved Mosley "in a controlled manner" because he was trying to escape and appeared ready to spit at him. He said he immediately called for medical help. Local police union officials have previously said an internal investigation cleared Kershaw of any wrongdoing.
Murphy said he was not surprised at the judgment and that it highlights a pervasive problem in the Baltimore Police Department.
"I think the citizens of Baltimore are outraged," said Murphy. "We need the police very badly. We wish them well. ... But we resent deeply how they police in the black community.
"I'm not indicting all the police," he said. "It only takes a few rotten apples to spoil the barrel. But this is more than a few rotten apples. This is an institutional pattern of long standing."
Police spokesman Matt Jablow said excessive force and discourtesy complaints against officers have been going down steadily over the past several years. Excessive-force complaints decreased 4 percent from 2003 to 2004 and 7 percent from 2004 to 2005, Jablow said. Discourtesy complaints decreased 13 percent from 2003 to 2004 and 14 percent from 2004 to 2005, he said.
"Nobody takes allegations of excessive force and discourtesy by police officers more seriously than the Police Department does," he said.
A jury verdict in 2004 awarded $39 million to a man who said his neck was broken during a 1997 incident. During the appeals process the city settled Jeffrey Alston's suit for $6 million.
Murphy said he expects Mosley to be paid the full amount. "We want to be paid," said the longtime defense attorney and former city Circuit Court judge.
"The jury honestly, after hearing from both sides, found that this was the level of damage that this man suffered," he added. We want the city to pay him the money to compensate him for the harm that this Baltimore police officer did to him. We're not looking to compromise."
'I feel good right now,' says man paralyzed after incident with city officer