Clayton County Jury Awards $10M To Murder Victim
A Clayton County jury delivered a post-apportionment award of $10 million to the family of a man murdered by unknown assailants at a Forest Park apartment complex last year, earning praise from plaintiffs' attorney Jeff Shiver for putting aside the fact that the dead man's widow was a Mexican national and spoke no English.
"I'm encouraged that jurors are looking past someone's last name, the language they speak or the color of their skin to see that all lives have intrinsic value," said Shiver, whose team included Shiver & Hamilton partner Alan Hamilton and associate Daniel Beer, and Darren Summerville and Mecca Anderson of the Summerville Firm.
The jurors were not told that the dead man, Florencio Perez-Hernandez, had been in the country illegally, Shiver said. His widow obtained a visa to attend the trial, leaving their three children in Mexico, but had to return before its conclusion, he said.
The defendants, the apartments' corporate owner and management company, offered to settle the case for $1 million a few weeks before trial, Shiver said, after turning down a $7 million plaintiffs' offer last October.
Because of that, the plaintiffs' lawyers will also seek attorney fees through Georgia's offer of judgment statute, under which a party that declines a settlement offer, then loses at trial by at least 25 percent more than the rejected offer, can be ordered to pay the winning party's fees accrued from the date of the offer, he said.
The defense team included Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial partners Earl "Billy" Gunn and David Matthews, and associate George Green Jr.
"I can't say I'm surprised with the verdict," said Gunn. "I am surprised and unhappy with dollar amount awarded, although I had a jury that worked diligently."
"I expect us to pursue post-judgment relief," Gunn said.
The case is the second one pitting Shiver Hamilton and Gunn's firm stemming from a murder at the Bradford Ridge Apartments. In 2013, 13-year-old Steven Diaz was shot and killed there, resulting in a confidential settlement last year.
Asked why the first settled while the second went to trial, the lawyers said another insurer handled the first case.
"Different insurer, different philosophy," said Gunn. "I told Jeff, 'that first settlement spoiled you.' I was wrong."
The just-concluded trial involved the Jan. 24, 2015, murder of Perez-Hernandez, 33, who had left the apartment complex to go to a nearby convenience store with a friend, Emmanuel Perez-Lopez.
As they returned, according to Shiver and court filings, three men asked them for cigarettes; upon being told they had none, someone hit Perez-Lopez in the head with an unknown object, and he passed out.
When he came to, Perez-Lopez returned to the apartment and told others there about the attack, and they went in search of their friend. They found him dead from a gunshot wound in the apartments' parking lot, 50 to 100 feet from where he and Perez-Lopez had been accosted.
Clayton County, Georgia was the setting for Margaret Mitchell's great circa bellum novel Gone With The Wind. Much of the 1977 film Smokey And The Bandit was shot there, back when we used to look like this.
Rest assured my friends, all those days are indeed "gone with the wind."
lAs of the 2010 United States Census, there were 259,424 people residing in the county. 66.1% were Black or African American, 18.9% White, 5.0% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 7.1% from some other race and 2.5% from two or more races. 13.7% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
As of the 2000 census, there were 236,517 people, 82,243 households, and 59,214 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,658 people per square mile (640/km²). There were 86,461 housing units at an average density of 606 per square mile (234/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 37.94% White, 51.55% Black or African American, 0.32% Native American, 4.49% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 3.55% from other races, and 2.08% from two or more races. 7.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Estimated 2006 population is 271,240, with a racial make-up of 20.4% white non-Hispanic, 62.9% African American, 5% Asian, 11.3% Hispanic or Latino, 0.4% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1% Pacific Islander. 1.5% were reported as multi-racial.
There were 82,243 households out of which 40.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.70% were married couples living together, 20.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.00% were non-families. 21.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.84 and the average family size was 3.30.
In the county the population was spread out with 30.00% under the age of 18, 10.40% from 18 to 24, 35.40% from 25 to 44, 18.40% from 45 to 64, and 5.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 94.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $42,697, and the median income for a family was $46,782. Males had a median income of $32,118 versus $26,926 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,079. About 8.20% of families and 10.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.20% of those under age 18 and 8.90% of those age 65 or over.
The last quarter-century has seen significant change in the racial composition of the county's population. In 1980, Clayton county's population was 150,357 — 91% white and 9% minority, while in 2006 the population was approximately 271,240 — 20% white and 80% minority.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 259,424 people, 90,633 households, and 62,389 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,832.5 inhabitants per square mile (707.5/km2). There were 104,705 housing units at an average density of 739.6 per square mile (285.6/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 66.1% black or African American, 18.9% white, 5.0% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 7.1% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 13.7% of the population. In terms of ancestry, and 4.9% were American.
Of the 90,633 households, 42.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 25.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 31.2% were non-families, and 25.4% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.37. The median age was 31.6 years.
The median income for a household in the county was $43,311 and the median income for a family was $48,064. Males had a median income of $36,177 versus $32,460 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,958. About 13.6% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.5% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.
In summary, whites are fleeing, vibrancy is moving in, and incomes are stagnant and declining, despite the unmitigated boon of cheap immigrant labor. I know white rednecks who just up and left, dropping their keys off at the bank. Central American stoop laborers, paid in cash, stumbling around drunk, are easy marks for black predators.
The security measures necessary to keep Bradford Ridge Apartments predator-free would likely price the unit costs out of the reach of the late Perez-Hernandez. The tactics necessary to keeping his assailants away would be illegal. This is quintessential anarcho-tyranny: the property owners are placed between the Scylla and Charybdis of pricing out their own customers thereby eliminating their income stream, or assuming the full expense for the general criminality of Clayton County and its dysfunctional demographics, which is frankly uninsurable and impossible.
Let me unpack this a bit more: a Clayton County jury (none of whom, I assure you, were landlords) apportioned practically no fault to the actual trigger-pullers (that's what the "post-apportionment" means) and simply speculated that something could have been done to prevent a group of human predators from preying on their unfortunate marks (machine guns? Ghurkas? a crocodile-filled moat?). Note also the strange tale of the survivor: they hit him over the head, and apparently drag his buddy 50 to 100 feet away where they shoot him, then conveniently disappear, allowing Perez-Lopez to regain consciousness, return to the apartment, then go looking for the decedent whom (hey, presto!) they find shot dead. I'm not an actor on Law & Order, but this story stinks to high heaven.
Which gets me to my Anarcho-Capitalist Proposal: If the costs of general criminal activity in counties are going to be socialized on to the county's property owners, why not just give the property owners the county?