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Martin Cotton Family Awarded Over $4.5 Million in Trial Against Eureka Police, Interview: Video
by dave id
Friday Sep 23rd, 2011 7:22 PM
On August 9th, 2007, Eureka police officers Justin Winkle, Gary Whitmer, Adam Laird, and five others were involved in beating an unarmed Martin Cotton II to death. Eureka police pummeled Martin Cotton's body and head in broad daylight, using pepper spray repeatedly. Martin Cotton was then sent to jail without being offered medical treatment. He died in jail within about an hour. A federal civil rights trial in Oakland was filed to seek justice for Martin on behalf of his young daughter. The case, Siehna Cotton et al v. City of Eureka, included the testimony of police readily admitting they beat Martin Cotton all over his body and did not seek medical assistance for him afterward. The police however denied that they hit Martin Cotton in the head, most likely because blows to the head were determined to be the cause of death. At about 1pm on September 23rd, the verdict was announced for the two-week trial. A seven-person jury found unanimously in favor of the plaintiffs, big time. Siehna Cotton was awarded $1,250,000 for the pain Martin Cotton suffered at the hands of Eureka police and $2,750,000 for wrongful death damages. Additionally, Marty Cotton Sr. was awarded $500,000, which required plaintiffs to meet the highest burden of proof in a civil trial, that is that the murder of Martin Cotton "shocked the conscience." A rare award of punitive damages against the three officers required a finding of "malice, oppression, or reckless disregard" to the decedent's or plaintiffs' rights, for which the jury assessed $30,000 from officer Winkle, $30,000 from officer Laird, and $15,000 from officer Whitmer, who arrived at the scene late but joined in on the beating. Crucial to the verdict was the testimony of two witnesses who bravely reported that they had indeed seen at least officer Winkle striking Martin Cotton's skull. Painful video of Martin Cotton dying in jail was presented during the trial which obviously effected jurors, four of whom wore black in solidarity with the family today as the verdict was read. In the video below, Cotton family attorney Vicki Sarmiento and Vebena Lea of Redwood Curtain CopWatch speak about the verdict re-establishing Martin Cotton's humanity and the shockwaves they hope the decision will send through the ranks of police who may consider committing such atrocities in the future.
martincotton_verdict-interview_092311.jpg
martincotton_verdict-inte...

[Pictured above: Vebena Lea of Redwood Curtain CopWatch and Cotton family attorney Vicki Sarmiento]


For more information:
§Full video of interview with Vicki Sarmiento and Vebena Lea
by dave id Friday Sep 23rd, 2011 7:22 PM
Copy the following to embed the movie into another web page:
download video:

martincotton_civiltrialverdict_interviewsarmientoverbena_092311.mp4 (106.2MB)

(video 17:44)

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Lydia Heather Blumberg
( streetsheet [at] cohsf.org ) Wednesday Sep 28th, 2011 1:10 AM
Seems like lately every time I do research on a topic I'd like covered in Street Sheet, I run into one of your well-written articles here. Keep up the great work, and please consider submitting articles to me directly in the future.
While Sarmiento said she hopes the verdict has a deterrent effect, EPD Interim Police Chief Murl Harpham said Monday that he hopes it does not. Harpham said he was issuing a memo to all department employees telling them: “Don't pay attention to those anonymous blogs written by cop haters and don't let the decision influence the way you do your duties...”

Harpham said he was shocked by the verdict and that he stands by what then Police Chief Garr Nielsen said at the time of Cotton's death -- that the officers involved acted appropriately and followed department policy...

”I think they were wronged,” Harpham said of the officers, adding that they are “kind” men, noting that Winkle was named “Officer of the Year” in 2007 and Laird was promoted to sergeant earlier this year. “They're just good people, and they wouldn't do what's been claimed here out of viciousness or anything like that.”