DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has upheld a $5.2 million verdict for two black state troopers who said they were rejected for promotion because of their race.
Darzeil Hall and Lamarr Johnson each passed special training to become firearms examiners, but they weren’t promoted within the forensic science division and returned to their previous jobs.
Michigan State Police denied any discrimination, claiming Hall and Johnson didn’t perform well on a certain portion of the training. But a Wayne County jury in 2013 disagreed and awarded $2.5 million to Hall and $2.7 million to Johnson.
In a 3-0 decision released Wednesday, the appeals court said the verdict will stand. Among other issues, the court said witnesses at trial had “fabricated” reasons to explain why Hall and Johnson weren’t promoted.
“Praise the Lord,” said their attorney, Leonard Mungo. “It’s vindication. … When you’re discriminated against, it creates a wound in a person’s soul that never heals.”
State police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said officials will discuss any additional appeal with the attorney general’s office, which represented the agency at trial.
Hall and Johnson offered evidence that they were passed over despite having scores in part of the training that were higher than those achieved by whites.
The jury watched video of a court exercise involving Hall, Johnson and others in the program. There was testimony that “each trainee received lots of criticism and none of them were perfect,” the appeals court said.
“By viewing the videos, the jury was able to evaluate whether the originally articulated reason for removing plaintiffs from training — i.e. deficient moot court performances — was just a pretext for discrimination,” judges Douglas Shapiro, Joel Hoekstra and Amy Ronayne Krause said.
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