City panel approves Gray family settlement deal

Posted at 8:10 AM, Sep 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-10 08:10:36-04
The Baltimore Board of Estimates approved unanimously approved a $6.4 million settlement Wednesday between the city and the family of Freddie C. Gray, Jr.
Gray's April arrest and subsequent death led to citywide protests and riots.
The vote on the settlement took place just a day ahead a hearing to decide whether or not to move the trials of the six officers facing charges related to Gray's death outside the Baltimore. The argument raised by defense attorney's is whether or not they can get a fair trial inside the city.



William H. "Billy" Murphy said the answer to that question is "yes," but also that the timing of the agreement is significant.
"The settlement in this case represents civil justice for Freddie Gray's mother, and his biological father," Murphy said at an afternoon press conference in front of a crush of national and local reporters.
Murphy called today a watershed moment. Asked by a reporter if there was any significance to the timing of the announcement, and if it was related to potential protests if the trials are moved, Murphy stopped short of saying it was related.
"Our reasons are obvious," he said.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the settlement gives the city closure, but also said it has nothing to do with the criminal cases against the six officers. 
In a seperate statement issued immediately following the vote, City Council President Jack Young, Chairman of the city's spending board echoed her statement.
The settlement will be split between Gray's mother, Gloria Darden, and Gray's paternal father. The rest, about $400,000, will go to Gray's estate.
"I know from personal experience that the outcome of a civil case, if you roll the dice and go to trial, is very unpredictable," said retired federal court judge Alex Williams, Jr., who mediated the settlement, which took a little over three months to negotiate.
The settlement was made final five days ago, Murphy said, and was initiated after his firm threatened to file a federal lawsuit.
Unlike civil suits filed in the state of Maryland, civil suits filed in federal court are not subject to a $400,000 cap that is set by state law. 
Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis declined to comment on the settlement, electing instead to stay focused on a day of protests expected outside the courtroom Thursday as another motion is argued in the morning.
"We're prepared for it," Davis said. "We're monitoring social media and we have our ear to the ground."
As part of the settlement, 150 officers in the Western District -- the police district where Gray was arrested -- are expected to begin wearing body cameras starting in Oct.