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Arizona Jury Awards $125,000 to Family of Sudanese Killed By DPS Officer

In March 2009, an Arizona jury awarded $125,000 to the family of a former "lost boy" from Sudan who was brought to the United States as a teenage refugee and shot to death by a Department of Public Safety officer in the median of Interstate 17 near Anthem in February 2005. Joseph Moi, who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, was described by witnesses as looking "upset" and "crazy" in the median that day. The first words he told Officer Travis Palmer when Palmer arrived on the scene were: "Kill me. That's all I’ll say." Palmer assured Moi he wouldn't kill him or use the Taser he was pointing at Moi. He offered Moi a ride.

Moi rushed Palmer, who fired the Taser. The Taser failed to properly attached to Moi, rendering it useless. Moi threw rocks at Palmer. Dodging the rocks, Palmer advanced on Moi, firing his pistol. Two of Palmer's three shots hit the fleeing Moi in the arm and the back of the head. Moi's family sued. A jury trial was held, and the jury concluded that the fatal shot constituted excessive force and violated Moi’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.

The eight-member jury awarded $50,000 to each parent and $25,000 for funeral and burial expenses. DPS officials blame Moi's death on the failure of the Taser to deploy properly. Attorney Joel Robbins, who represented the family, said the suit was filed because the family wanted a jury to determine whether Palmer's actions were justified or not. The court subsequently order defendants to pay Robbins $392,362.56 in attorney fees. See: Otioti v. Arizona, USDC, D. Ariz., No. CV07-443-PHX-SRB.


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Related legal case

Otioti v. Arizona

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