tv America Tonight Al Jazeera March 22, 2016 2:30am-3:01am EDT
get big. the city of cleveland for example has paid out over $10 million in officer misconduct cases over six years and now the cash strapped city appears to be using a different stack tick to avoid paying up. "america tonight's" lori jane gliha explains. >> reporter: for 11 years, david ayers wasn't able to cook lunch in his own kitchen or enjoy a home made sandwich. instead he was serving sometime in an ohio prison for a murder he says he didn't commit. >> it was hell. i went through pure hell in prison. >> reporter: ayers says he was an easy target for cleveland police detectives when in 1999 his neighbor and friend thy brown was found beaten to death in their apartment complex. he was one of the last people to
see her alive. can you talk about why you think they were so focused on you? >> they were too lazy to get up off their butts to investigate to find out the real killer, the day of this horrific crime. so they say well, we're going to make you the scapegoat. okay, you're black. and we don't like gay people. so what the hell, we might as well put it on you, okay? >> reporter: the police focused on ayers ignoring his version of events and used what the judge found was an unreliable jail informant to testify against him. ayers was sentenced to a life without patrol. >> how did you live if there?
>> with a lot of prayer. >> finding that the dna wasn't a match and his rights had been violated during investigation. he sued the detectives that presented the case against them and won, $13.2 million. >> reporter: you haven't seen a dime of it? >> not yet. >> ayers and ruth brown his attorney said they are involved in a scheme to avoid paying up. >> they paid for the police officers to go through bankruptcy to try to duck their obligation to pay. glrg according to brown, cities yux indemnify the police officers. the cleveland police union contract even says the city must pay at least $1 million of financial judgments against an officer.but brown says the city
instead paid for the police officers to file for bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid paying a thing. >> in order to take this maneuver, the city of cleveland had to do plenty. >> the city of cleveland would not talk to al jazeera citing on ongoing litigation, but did not satisfy the qualifications for indemnification. >> that is really sad, the city needs to take a look at themselves and get things nod. >> shauna smith sued a police officer for wrongfully shooting and killing her son kenny, an
aspiring rapper. >> the thing that really bothers me is that -- normally, i would always call him a lot throughout the day. and people were telling me quit treating him like a baby because he's grown now and you don't have to call him all like that. this was the one day that i didn't call him a lot. >> reporter: on march 10th, 2012, kenny smith was planning to perform at a clevelandnight club when someone fired shots in a parking lot. an off-duty police officer stopped the car smith was riding in and claimed smith lunged for a gun. the officer shot him in the head. at the time, the investigation said the officer acted reheroicly.
>> when was it that you realized this story wasn't what the police officers said it was? >> i would give my life knowing that my son didn't provoke this. >> at what point did you think you should prove that what the officers said didn't happen? >> they didn't know anything about it and jumped out there and made him a hero. and like be assassinating my son's character and i didn't like that. >> it took three years for her lawsuit to work its way through the court system. it proved that the officer used undue force and awarded her $5.5 million. >> describe what happened after that point. >> then i find that they don't want to pay.
they don't want to pay. we still have to fight for what i already thought was over. >> reporter: the city is appealing the case but smith's attorney learned just like in ayers case, the city took steps to pay for a bankruptcy attorney for the officer involved. >> it makes it more of a struggle because now i'm sitting here with you talking about everything again, running the story all over again, telling my feelings are resurfacing, and -- i'm ready for it to be over with. >> shauna smith is trying to rethrif good times wit -- relivs with her son. >> he made me laugh. he was fun. i just always wonder where he would be now in life. >> shauna smith and david ayers know they may never see a dime
of their money. >> it really, honestly, saddens me. because again, this is -- we're supposed to be respectful to the law. we're supposed to feel safe and secure. and protected. and most of the time, it's hard to feel that way. when it's something actually really going to be done. when is the justice system really going to protect and serve? >> ayers has filed another suit hoping to compel cleveland to pay. but he and his attorney worry that in the meantime he completed a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and is planning to attend law school in the hope of helping other people like him. >> how does your future look
good? >> even without the money i think it look pretty good. because now i'm a positive person. i can overcome probably anything now. you know? is and i am grateful. i am very grateful to be helped. >> "america tonight's" lori jane gliha with a surprising turn in the high cost of justice. in a moment we speak again with "america tonight"'s lori jane gliha, about the tactic that cleveland is using to avoid paying these bills and what the consequence of that might be. >> pushing the boundaries of science. >> we are on the tipping point. >> we can save species. >> it's the biggest question out there. >> it's a revolutionary approach. >> we are pushing the boundaries. >> techknow is going to blow your mind. >> our experts go inside the innovations, impacting you.
paying the high price of justice. "america tonight's" lori jane gliha, joinings us to speak about the broaders contexts of that. for people who have sued and won judgments against city, in your earlier piece they thought they might never get the money that the courts say they're due. >> reporter: right, and they feel it's a possibility even though one was award he 13.2
million and another 5.5 million, one is under appeal and another is in another lawsuit accusing cleveland of coming up with this strange tactic. david ayers who spent a decade behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, researching and finding out that the city had hired bankruptcy attorneys on behalf of these officers, during her research she found out this is something that never happened, that cleveland had never done this before but during her discovery phase, she found out that cleveland had taken steps in another case, kenny smith and what we have learned since then the attorney representing the smith family says that bankruptcy attorney has since pulled out. so we're not exactly sure what's going on with that case while it's under appeal. it's certainly nothing you hear
all the time and the attorney representing david ayers was taken aback by this and feels it is an unethical tactic. >> the idea that the court awards a certain amount to the plaintiff in the case, and then, in order to keep from having to pay it, the city hires a bankruptcy attorney? >> right and i guess what normally happens in these cases or traditionally, the city indem any nice thaindemnifies that officer. what's happened in this case, instead of paying that money they are instead going over here and saying, we are going to fund a bankruptcy attorney for this officer and if the officer goes bankrupt that essentially goes away. that's what this attorney has uncovered, why is the city doing
that, isn't there some conflict of interest here? how could the city be representing the officer and also the city at the same time and that's what's being discussed in court. >> "america tonight's" lori jane gliha, thank you. next for the strikes against them to the home run. to the home of america's pastime. ((úz@úxóxkxñ($9rica.
tonight," tomorrow. a symbol of democracy and now the most powerful minister in myanmar's new government. aung san suu kyi is to join the cabinet. you're watching al jazeera. also ahead, the u.s. government reveals it may be able to underlock an iphone without apple's help avoiding a legal battle. fronk, awkward and at times critical, a meeting between presidents exposing