LOS ANGELES, CA, 5/20/2014) – The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today welcomed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse many of a lower court's rulings that were unfavorable to the family of Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, a 21-year-old autistic Muslim man fatally shot by a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer in 2008.
"The findings by the Ninth Circuit are an important step toward righting the wrongs that have been done to this family," said Fatima Dadabhoy, CAIR-LA's senior civil rights attorney. "Although no amount of reparations can take back the pain that came from this tragedy, we hope the Chaudhry family can find solace in these rulings, which ultimately aim to serve justice."
University of Southern California Trial Advocacy Professor Olu K. Orange, who served as lead counsel and brought in his students to assist with the case, said: "The Chaudhry family's strength and commitment to justice is second to none. Their perseverance has resulted in this decision, which will save many lives. We are honored to have worked with them to achieve this measure of justice."
In March 2008, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry was shot three times in the torso by Officer Joseph Cruz. Cruz was later fired for giving inaccurate accounts about a detainee who fled from his custody, and had previously been caught striking a man in his custody in the head. Three years later, a jury found that Cruz used excessive force in the shooting. Thereafter, Cruz was fired from the LAPD for unrelated misconduct. The jury decided to award $1.7 million to the Chaudhry family for pre-death pain and suffering damages.
But a district court overturned the jury's findings and award. Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit reversed many of the district court's findings. Among them, the Ninth Circuit demanded the district court hold further proceedings on the one-million dollar verdict that the district court previously struck down. The Ninth Circuit also found that the district court erred in dismissing the Chaudhry family's due process claims and erred in finding that no negligence existed against the Coroner's office, who failed to notify the family of their son's death for three weeks.
CAIR-LA Staff Attorney Ameena M. Qazi, with attorney Olu Orange, Mann and Cook Law Offices and the Disability Rights Legal Center filed a lawsuit in 2009 on behalf of the family of the victim, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry. The suit was filed against former LAPD officer Joseph Cruz and the LAPD for claims including wrongful death and excessive use of force, and against Los Angeles County for the failure to notify the Chaudhry family of their son's death for three weeks.