Speed Reads

police brutality

An innocent 18-year-old was beaten by police in his bed. A jury awarded him $18.

Eighteen-year-old DeShawn Franklin of South Bend, Indiana, awoke at 2:30 a.m. when police officers burst into his room and began beating him in his bed. They Tased the high school student and dragged him out of his house and down to the cruiser, where Franklin was cuffed and arrested. Then they realized he was innocent.

Franklin's traumatizing encounter with the cops, who were looking for a suspect with a similar description, happened in 2012 and was addressed in a civil rights suit this August. A jury agreed police violated Franklin's civil rights when they entered the house without warrant or permission — but awarded his family only $18 in damages, $1 from each of the six officers to each family member (Franklin and his mom and dad). On top of that, the city demands the Franklin family cover $1,500 in court expenses.

"I would've expected most juries to have awarded several thousand dollars," said Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University with expertise in excessive force cases. "It doesn't seem adequate for an illegal entry into a home and for excessive force. It's so low. You can't go any lower. $18 says, 'We don't really think much of these rights that were violated.'"

Rev. Mario Sims, a pastor who lives in South Bend and is familiar with the case, agrees that the award sends a message: "Your rights are worth a dollar."