On Wednesday, after meeting with the parents of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old who was killed in a Bay County juvenile boot camp, Governor Charlie Crist recommended a $10 million dollar settlement be allotted to Anderson’s family for compensation in the brutal boot camp case.
According to a press release issued by the office of Parks & Crump, LLC, Crist has mandated the State of Florida Department of Juvenile Justice give the family $5 million and is urging Bay County officials to match the sum by paying an additional $5 million.
Originally Anderson’s parents, Robert Anderson and Gina Jones, were suing the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for $40 million.
Benjamin Crump, of Parks & Crump, LLC, the lawyer representing the family, said the state is very conservative for payment when setting values for a life.
“This case has really set the precedent in terms of the amount of money the state usually allots,” Crump said. “Even if its very well documented, the most a family can recover when a soldier is killed from the government is $40,000.”
Crump also said he believes $10 million is a good settlement for the family and is a better alternative to waiting for the state to pay a larger sum.
“Because it’s immediate, the family doesn’t have to continue to relive the tragedy every day in a public forum in a courtroom,” he said.
Crump explained they are in the final stages of the civil suit.
“It’s a done deal,” Crump said. “We just have to get the legislature to sign off. Two hundred politicians have to agree. We’re confident it’s going to work out in our favor. It’s just going to take some work.”
Because the settlement was given before a trial, when the verdict is rendered the resolution is guaranteed regardless of the verdict or the appeals process. Now that the civil suit has been settled, there can be more focus on the criminal matters.
After Anderson’s death, the Student Coalition for Justice held several marches and compelled Florida lawmakers to advocate fairness. As a result eight former employees from the Bay County Sheriff’s Department were arrested on charges of aggravated manslaughter, and Charles F. Siebert, the Bay County Medical Examiner who performed the first autopsy on Anderson’s body, must undergo an administrative review.
Although half of the settlement Crist recommended is supposed to come from Bay County, it is only suggested and not obligatory.
“They (Bay County) do have the option of rejecting the recommendation the governor has set forth, but it’s hard to tell with Bay County; they are very conservative,” Crump said.
Whitney Murray, 20, a junior political science student and member of the Student Coalition for Justice, said she believes it is good there has been some kind of monetary compensation.
“It would have been an outrage to give them anything less seeing how they’ve been traumatized, but this won’t be settled until each of those guards and that nurse are punished,” the Jacksonville native said.
Phillip Agnew, 21, student body president and member of the Student Coalition for Justice, said he had mixed feelings about the settlement, but believes the boot camp officers involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
“I don’t know how to feel about it because you can’t put a price on life, but it is a settlement, (which) implies both sides agreed to some degree,” Agnew said.
Agnew said he thinks the guards should be brought to court, charged and found guilty.
“I’m all for those people (officers) going to jail no matter what because they were involved in a young man’s death,” he said.
Ramon Alexander, 22, a senior political science student from Tallahassee, said this tragedy is a reminder that no matter what level of authority someone is in, it is important to value human life.
“No money can repay the loss of a child, but I appreciate lawmakers for stepping up to the plate and making efforts toward changing things for the better,” Alexander said. “In many respects it brings some type of relief to the issue, but the fact that it took so long to get justice when someone’s life was taken away shows we still have a long way to go.”
Crump agreed with Alexander that no amount of money will ever bring Anderson back, but getting over the civil suit is positive because now they can concentrate on the criminal cases and punish the people responsible for murdering their son.
“Hopefully, the civil matter is almost through, and now we can get ready for this very emotional and extremely volatile trial to take place to see if they (the officers) are going to be held accountable,” Crump said.
The judge has not set a trial date for the eight former employees from the Bay County Sheriff’s Department, but is scheduled to do so by March 21.