November 11, 2023
The family of Anton Black was awarded $100,000 from the office with an additional $135,000 going to the activism organization under his name.
The Board of Public Works has unanimously approved of a financial settlement that resolved a lawsuit filed by Anton Black’s family against the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for his suspicious death.
The long-awaited settlement is set to be $100,000, with another $135,000 will be paid to the lawyers who represented the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black.
The settlement brought about much-needed changes to the protocols and procedures for the Office of the State Medical Examiner that will go along with the financial payout.
The policies outline explicitly how deaths are to be handled when they occur in custody and what guidelines the office will have to follow. The newly enforced guidelines align with the national standards for cause of death determination and the following investigations that are to be conducted with specific designations.
Specifically, the settlement “requires a death to be ruled a homicide whenever it is determined that the death would not have occurred but for the intentional conduct of another person.”
In addition to the investigative standards, all procedures have to be performed without “improper police influence” maintained by the strict rules that no one outside of medical examiner office employees can contribute to autopsy or examinations, and even still decisions must be checked by the chief medical examiner before the results are released to the broader public.
The founder of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black, Richard Potter, said, “This settlement is an excellent first step, but as we engage in this new process, community members must stay vigilant and engaged to make sure it’s effective.”
He continued to express that the new reforms would invoke responsibility and accountability within the systems that judge wrongful death cases.
“The best frontline approach to eliminating harm is increasing accountability within. That is why I hope that with this settlement, agencies will begin to recognize their own wrongdoings, catch them, and change them before they cause harm,” Potter said. “What is needed is a sense of shared ownership that can only come through trust and mutual accountability, with police confronting their own biases about mental illness, committing to de-escalation, and truly serving a diverse community.”
Black, 19, was killed on Sept. 15, 2018, after he was physically restrained by several white police officers and a white civilian while in front of his mother’s home in Greensboro, MD.
After the teenager was reportedly seen fighting with an acquaintance, he was chased by three officers and a civilian back to his mom’s home. While the officers tried to subdue Black, they threw him to the ground, used a stun gun several times on him, and sat on top of him for multiple minutes, ultimately resulting in his early death. The subsequent autopsy conducted by the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Black’s death was the result of cardiac arrest; however, civil rights organizations and the boy’s family pushed for further investigation due to their suspicions that the police officer’s excessive force, driven by racial bias, directly caused his untimely death.
Investigation revealed that proper procedures were not confirmed to be followed by those who performed the autopsy and began the long lawsuit and fight for justice.
Sonia Kumar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Maryland, said, “This hard-fought settlement is about ensuring that the Maryland Office of the Medical Examiner tells the truth about what happens when people, and particularly Black people, are killed by police or corrections officials. We can’t prevent such deaths if we aren’t honest about what caused them, and this settlement is a crucial step toward that goal in future cases. We hope this settlement will make a real, positive impact, but it is truly just the beginning of the reckoning needed to address decades of misrepresentations so we can bring justice to families still waiting for the government to tell the truth.”