July 05, 2013

Venable Prevails for Client in Maryland Racial Profiling Case

3 min

Maryland Board of Public Works approves $55,000 settlement in a case that Venable attorneys had litigated, pro bono, for more than two years

Baltimore, MD (July 5, 2013) – The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a settlement Wednesday in a case that Venable attorneys have litigated, pro bono, for more than two years on behalf of an African-American man who was the victim of racial profiling and subsequent retaliation. 

The $55,000 settlement approved by the Board of Public Works was reached with the Maryland State Police (on behalf of State Trooper Chris Conner and Jeremiah Gussoni) and Venable client, David Martin, in a case the firm filed in 2011.  That case alleged that Mr. Martin was stopped, searched and detained on two occasions in late 2009 for improper reasons, including his race – and then was retaliated against when he filed public records requests probing the stops.

The retaliation included reviving a previously dismissed misdemeanor charge arising from the first traffic stop, tacking on a new more serious charge despite having conducted no additional investigation and, on the basis of the new charge, securing Mr. Martin’s arrest and detention for 20 days before he was released.  Mr. Martin, who had never been arrested before his encounters with the two troopers, was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

Key evidence supporting Mr. Martin’s claims of racial profiling included a GPS technology-based recording from a device affixed to Mr. Martin’s car at the time of the second stop.  The recording showed that, contrary to Sgt. Conner’s claims, Mr. Martin was traveling at speeds of less than 60 mph – not 73 mph – in a 65 mph zone and was actually overtaken by other cars as he approached and passed Sgt. Conner’s vehicle parked on the highway median.   Other key evidence consisted of the findings in an expert report prepared by Dr. John Lamberth, who ascertained the racial characteristics of the driving population of I-95 from north of Baltimore to the Delaware line - the stretch of highway that the two defendants patrolled and that has been the subject of scrutiny, including a prior study by Dr. Lamberth in the 1990s. Comparing the makeup of the driving population observed to be violating the traffic laws, which is known as a “benchmark,” with the proportion of stops of African-Americans, Hispanics and whites that each trooper performed between 2007 and 2011, Dr. Lamberth determined that both troopers stopped a vastly disproportionate number of minority motorists – an even more disproportionate percentage than their peers, who were themselves stopping far more minority motorists than statistically expected.

Seth Rosenthal of Venable noted, “The State Police have made strides, and Secretary Brown appears genuinely committed to rooting out the problem of racial profiling once and for all.  But as this case reveals, and as Dr. Lamberth’s study strongly suggests, the agency’s formal message about the importance of constitutional policing and the deleterious impact that racial profiling has on the public’s trust still does not appear to be resonating with all troopers. Consistent with Mr. Martin’s primary goal in pursuing this case, we hope the settlement will lead to further improvements.”

Venable associate Joeann Walker assisted with the litigation.


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