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Monetizing Grief

February 23, 2017

Several years ago an extended part of my family (on my dad’s side) suffered the loss of their teenage son in a traffic accident.  Other members of the family were also in the vehicle.  It was a tragic situation that left broken bodies and spirits.   But what followed in the many, many months afterwards was stunning to watch play out.  The family took to the public Go Fund Me site online to raise money.   Through pleas and emotional attempts for cash a home renovation was undertaken with the attic converted to a useable space.  There were other ‘needs’ they requested cash for too, and it left me cold.  Death and sadness were replaced with greed.   It was most unseemly as no amount of money was going to bring back their child.

Today the news from Madison reminded me of that hard cold fact about the death of a loved one.

The family of Tony Robinson, who sued the city of Madison after he was killed by a police officer settled the suit today for $3.35 million.  While I firmly believe in the process to bring suit and have judgments awarded it seemed to me the family wanted a higher outcome.  Since the shooting the family kept referring to justice being sought within the system regarding police behavior and conduct.  Therefore I am left pondering what just happened to their high pursuits.   It is hard for me to understand without a trial to show a legal ruling of misconduct by the police officer how a settlement for a huge pile of cash will resolve the matter of justice.

Personally I have felt the officer involved was doing his job.  The person who was most to blame for the death of Robinson was the one who supplied the drugs taken on the day of the tragedy.  Had Robinson not been in an altered state there would have been no actions on his part that would have ever necessitated the calling of the police.

The death of Robinson was a most sad outcome.  It is always a bitter thing not to see a young person take on adulthood and grow old.   Part of the sadness from his death was displayed in many ways.  Some were positive as when young African-Americans worked to engage the political process.  I applauded that channeling of anger.  Others however were simply troubling and disruptive as when closing down major traffic arteries such as East Washington.

Had true justice been the main driving force the Robinson family would have taken this case to trial and placed the officer before the court.  It should be noted for my readers from outside this city that the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing by the district attorney and the police department.    The family only had to wait a few more days as the civil lawsuit brought against the city was supposed to go to trial on Feb. 27 in Dane County Circuit Court.

Instead the family opted for millions of dollars.  That is, of course, their right.  The process clearly allows for such an outcome.  But one has to ask given the marches, outbursts, and tears over the past two years if the money feels like justice?   I think the outcome today resulted from firm legal guidance which made a win by the family, had the case  gone to trial, far from a certainty.

What is also troubling to me is that the police officer did not have his chance to clear his name in court. The views that some will now have based on the settlement will leave him with a mark on his name.  I have not used the man’s name in this post but know the officer did his job and served his profession honorably.  And, thankfully, still does.

  1. March 20, 2017 10:25 PM

    Thank you for making the point. Perfect.

  2. Money Talks permalink
    March 20, 2017 5:54 PM

    ‘Had true justice been the main driving force the Robinson family would have taken this case to trial and placed the officer before the court.” You are right on the money Deke. Interestingly, Andrea Irwin agreed with you too.
    “Irwin said she wants the evidence to go before a jury, to be laid out on the table for everyone see rather than decided by one person.
    “We’re going to file a lawsuit, that’s for sure,” Irwin said.” Wha happened????!!! I guess that was a limited time offer.

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