On a July evening in 2012, 18-year-old DeShawn Franklin was pulled out of his home by South Bend, IN, police who looking for his brother on a domestic violence charge. They did not have a warrant and mistook Franklin for his brother since they both had dreadlocks.
The South Bend Tribune reported at the time that police woke the sleeping Franklin by punching him multiple times and using a Taser on him. He then sat in a police car with the Taser probes still stuck in his body for two hours before paramedics treated him and he was released.
Franklin's family sued the officers, the city and the police department for violating his civil rights and a jury agreed earlier this month that he deserved compensation, finding in favor of the Franklins.
So how much compensation did the jury award? $1 per party for a grand total of $18.
All the parties involved in the lawsuit seem in shock that the jury would decide that, yes, Franklin's rights were violated and then put a value on those rights so low it couldn't even buy something at McDonalds.
”It creates a very difficult environment when you deal with African American people. You tell them to trust the system, and this family did all the right things, they did trust the system, and essentially, even though the jury found their rights were violated, the jury didn't value those rights," Mario Sims, a pastoral counselor for Franklin family, told local TV station WNDU.
Even South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg told the Indianapolis Star that he "believed that their rights were worth more than a dollar."
There's still the question of attorney's fees. The city is seeking to reclaim $1,500 in expenses from Franklin's attorney, Johnny Ulmer, for the cost of traveling to Fort Wayne, IN, for the trial. Ulmer, who represented the Franklins pro bono, told the Star he would pay the expenses, and is also seeking more than $160,000 from the city in attorney fees.
In an interview with the Star, the now 22-year-old Franklin talked about getting on with his life. He has a job at the University of Notre Dame and is pursuing a degree at Ivy Tech Community College. But both his experience with the police and the jury's disregard of the experience have clearly left him shaken.
“I have no value on the face of Earth, just as a person,” DeShawn told the Star. “We all bleed the same, so how could you value my family’s constitutional rights at a dollar but maybe elsewhere it could be $5, $10, $100,000? It just shows no respect for us.”