[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]
Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu dismissed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department as the case was about to go to the jury for deliberations. The action was brought by Lorena Lopez, mother of 1½-year-old Suzie Pena, who was killed in July 2005 as her father, Raul Pena, exchanged gunfire with police in South Los Angeles. Raul Pena was using his daughter as a human shield when both she and he were killed by police gunfire. I discussed the incident and its immediate aftermath here, at National Review Online.
Judge Treu granted a defense motion for a dismissal, ruling that the jury could only have reached the conclusion that the officers had acted properly. The defense presented a number of expert witnesses while the plaintiffs offered only one, retired LAPD commander Paul Kim, who, judging from his long but otherwise undistinguished police career, isn’t much of an expert on anything.
The below photo, from the L.A. Times website, shows City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and members of his staff reacting to the judge’s decision.
The photo inspired many people to leave comments voicing their displeasure that Trutanich should react so gleefully when, after all, a little girl had been killed. I’m sure Mr. Trutanich would rather his picture not been taken at that moment, but was he wrong to be pleased that the city of Los Angeles and the involved police officers had been spared from a multi-million-dollar judgment? Of course not. His lawyers worked hard, performed well, and achieved a just outcome. Suzie’s tragic death, and the less-than-tragic death of her father, did not produce a pot of gold for her mother and her lawyers.