Most dreams of cops, executing a warrant at the home of a family of innocents, fail to produce the outcome we would hope for. A big compensatory award coupled with punitive damages against the cops involved personally. The good news is that it happened in Chicago.
The bad news? Markee Cooper is also a cop.
On Friday, a federal jury awarded [Markee] Cooper and his family $565,000 in damages after finding one officer at fault for a falsified warrant and two others responsible for the illegal 2007 search.
The city of Chicago will have to pay $450,000 in compensatory damages awarded by the seven-woman, three-man jury, said Cooper’s attorney, Brendan Shiller. The jury also assessed punitive damages against three of five officers — money they will be responsible for paying, Shiller said.
Why is this bad news? Because most of the time, when a warrant goes south, the victims aren’t as pure as driven snow, or aren’t as sympathetic, or cannot argue to the jury that there is no way, no possibility, that the basis for the warrant was a complete sham. Cooper could. After all, he was a cop.
Cooper, a nine-year police veteran, is assigned to the department’s elite Organized Crime Division, working undercover investigations that often involve getting warrants.
The claim was that the warrant was obtained based on a lie.
Officer Sean Dailey, who testified that he secured the warrant based on information from an informant named “Lamar” who told him crack was being sold out of the second-floor apartment in the Cooper’s buildingOmitted from this description, because it served no purpose in the suit, was that a judge signed this warrant.
Cooper’s legal team argued that Dailey either made up the informant or was reckless by making no effort to try to verify the tip. They pointed to the sketchy information Dailey initially had about Lamar’s background — no last name, phone number or address.
And indeed, in the vast majority of cases, that would have been more than sufficient for a verdict in favor of the cops. Three prior tips that led to arrests? Daily said so, and that’s all it takes. The tipster’s reliability is established, and his tip was sufficiently detailed to justify the warrant. Unless, of course, he just lied.
The officers’ attorneys argued that Dailey played by the rules, informing the Cook County state’s attorney’s office before going to a judge for the warrant. Dailey testified that the same informant had given him three previous tips that led to criminal charges. That the information turned out to be bad was not intentional, the defense argued.
The “lie” argument is a hard one to sustain, since it fails to explain why Daily would select Cooper’s apartment to lie about. There is no claim that the two cops had a problem, and that Daily had a reason to pick Cooper’s apartment out of all the other possible apartments in Chicago. So one would believe that somebody had to feed Daily the information. It seems highly unlikely that he made it up out of whole cloth.
Nor is it particularly surprising that Daily lacked basic information about his tipster. It’s hardly unusual for a cop to have snitches on the street, often known only by a nickname, who feed them information. In exchange, they expect to be left alone to do whatever it is they do. Street sources don’t always live ordinary middleclass lives, and police and judges have become inured to the huge credibility holes they present due to their lack of normal background information because of the information they feed. It’s like a cop’s version of heroin, street snitches, and the criminal justice system is addicted.
What’s also notable is that the warrant execution wasn’t particularly violent or harsh. No dogs or humans were shot in the process. No one was tased, beaten, forced to lie naked with a boot against their throat.
No doubt the boys were traumatized. But aren’t the children always traumatized?
The officer and his wife testified at the trial that their two young sons, Markee Jr., 13, and Zion, 8, were traumatized at seeing their father confront a roomful of cops with guns before kneeling to the living room floor and handing over his badge and weapon.
“It’s a horrible experience for a child to see or even think about,” Cooper’s wife, Sherita, said after the verdict was announced. “I’m just glad that justice was served.”
Adding further to oddity of this case is that Cooper handed over his badge and weapon. Having a badge and weapon is usually considered a pretty good indication that they person you’re pointing a gun at is one of your own. The natural reaction is to wonder, have I a mistake?
Once Daily realized that he executed a warrant for a crack house on a cop, and assuming that the information upon which the warrant was issued was slightly lacking in credibility, it would seem a fine time to back down, apologize profusely and hand Cooper back his shield. If that didn’t happen, it’s a pretty good indication that Daily’s belief that he had raided a crack house exceeded his concern that the apartment was occupied by a brother narc.
So do we applaud this result or wonder how this fits into the world where the victim doesn’t happen to be a cop? Unless you happen to be a cop too, it likely doesn’t matter. Whatever happened here isn’t going to happen to you, because you don’t have a badge to show the jury when you sue over the wrongful execution of a warrant.