Yesterday, judge Joe Webster denied a Defense motion to stay discovery in the Federal civil rights lawsuit over the death of Marcus Deon Smith, the Black man fatally hogtied by eight Greensboro police officers during the 2018 North Carolina Folk Festival.
Defendants in that litigation are the City of Greensboro; Guilford County; GPD officers Justin Payne, Robert Duncan, Michael Montalvo, Alfred Lewis, Christopher Bradshaw, Lee Andrews, Douglas Strader, and Jordan Bailey; and Guilford EMS paramedics Ashley Abbott and Dylan Alling.
Judge Webster’s ruling lists George and Mary Smith, the deceased’s parents, as individual Plaintiffs, as well as Mary Smith in her capacity as administrator of Marcus Smith’s estate.
The ruling was in response to a motion filed on June 12 by attorneys for the city and county asking Judge Webster to delay the start of discovery. Discovery is a pre-trial procedure in which each party to a lawsuit obtains evidence from the other party by methods including depositions.
The June 12 Defense motion argued that discovery should be delayed until the completion of a separate court proceeding related to a petition filed by Mary Smith as administrator of her son’s estate. Mrs. Smith’s petition asked that court to determine whether Marcus Smith’s son Marquis Zyquarius Smith, who turned 18 in April, as well as two minor children, are heirs to the Smith estate.
As neither Marquis Smith nor the children are named as heirs in the wrongful death litigation, Defense argued that discovery should be delayed until heirship is determined, as that determination may be that the true heirs are Marcus Smith’s children rather than his parents.
In their response, Plaintiffs contended that discovery should begin immediately, arguing that the vast majority of discovery will be on liability rather than damages. The latter is where heirship might become an issue.
Yesterday, Judge Webster sided with the Plaintiffs. His order filed July 2 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled “After consideration of the parties’ positions, the Court will deny Defendants’ motion to stay discovery and enter an order to commence discovery immediately.”
The order stated that “interests of justice suggests that discovery should commence immediately,” as any “hardship to Defendants as a result of moving forward with discovery is minimal.”
Judge Webster ordered both parties to “exchange information required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1) no later than July 16, 2020.” His order set the date of completion of all discovery as April 2, 2021.
The order also stated “trial date in this matter shall be determined by the Court and that the trial, which will be before a jury, is expected to last approximately 10 to 14 days."
Plaintiff attorney Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office of Chicago gave the following statement to YES! Weekly.
“We are pleased that Judge Webster unequivocally denied the City and County defendants' motion for an indefinite stay of all proceedings and cleared the way for us to expeditiously obtain all of the documents relevant to the homicide of Marcus Smith and the cover-up that followed and to question under oath all of the officers and EMTs involved, those who trained them, former Chief Scott, and the Mayor.”
Taylor also condemned what he alleged was “City Attorney Charles Watts' irresponsible and false statements to the City Council, the Mayor, and the media about our lawsuit, the city's motion to stay, the Smith family, Greensboro's Black clergy, our legal team, and Lewis Pitts.”
As previously reported, City Attorney Watts caused controversy with his statements to city council, his letter to the Chair of the Guilford County Democratic Party, and his statements quoted by YES! Weekly. Watts, who is not a member of the city’s defense team, told Council that “there is no motion to stay.”
Watts also sent an email to the Chair of the Guilford County Democratic Party that referred to “Mr. Pitts’ litigation team” (Pitts, a longtime activist against police brutality, is retired from the North Carolina Bar and cannot litigate anything) and stated to this reporter that Greensboro’s Black clergy are “being pimped” by Pitts.