CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the wrongful death jury verdict on behalf of the estate of Kenneth Smith against Cleveland Police Officer Roger Jones.
Smith, a 20-year-old rising hip hop artist, was unarmed and surrendering when he was shot in the head outside of a stopped vehicle at East 9th and Prospect on March 10, 2012.
Witnesses say the off-duty officer kicked in the passenger side window, dragged Smith out of the car, and shot Smith at point-blank range while he was in the process of kneeling, with his hands up.
Attorneys for Officer Jones argued that U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver made several erroneous rulings during the 2015 jury trial.
Among the rulings, they alleged that Oliver erred when he concluded that defense lawyers were motivated by race when they attempted to strike a black juror from the jury panel. The judge found that the attempt to remove this juror constituted discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court agreed.
During 2015 trial, the jury returned a verdict of $5.5 million on behalf of Kenneth Smith's next of kin for his tragic death, the conscious pain and suffering endured by Kenneth in his final moments and for his mother's emotional distress. Shauna Smith lost her only child.
Judge Oliver later reduced the judgment to $4 million.
Friday's ruling upheld that award.
Jones remains a Cleveland police officer.