wjxt logo

Butler Family Settles Lawsuit With City

Teenager's Family Will Get $775,000 For Ordeal

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of Brenton Butler settled their civil suit Monday morning with the City of Jacksonville over the wrongful arrest of their teenage son.

The family initially sought $8.5 million, but the judge threw the case out, calling the court papers sloppy.

According to the family's attorney, Tom Fallis, the settlement calls for the city to pay Butler $775,000. The settlement followed three weeks of negotiations between the parties over the suit, which was filed in October.

Fallis said the family decided to settle for various reasons, including concerns about how long the case would drag out and whether it could be proved under federal civil rights law.

City officials are denying any responsibility for what happened to Butler under the action. The settlement releases the police officers from any liability.

Butler -- then 15 -- was arrested in May of 2000 and charged with killing a Georgia tourist at a Jacksonville motel. Butler said he was beaten, threatened and intimidated into making a false confession.

When Butler's trial began in November 2000, the prosecution's case was plagued by a lack of evidence. The gun used in the slaying was never found. Butler's fingerprints were not on the victim's purse, and he did not have gunpowder residue on his hands or blood on his clothing.

Butler testified that detectives beat the confession out of him.

The lawsuit said racial profiling and inadequate training and supervision led to the arrest and false imprisonment of Butler. It was filed after he was acquitted by a jury that was critical of the police investigation and prosecution.

State Attorney Harry Shorstein and Sheriff Nat Glover later admitted that the youth had been wrongly arrested and prosecuted for the killing. Two adults were later arrested in Mary Ann Stephens' murder.

A grand jury convened to look into the Butler case found no criminal wrongdoing, but suggested that changes be made in police interrogation procedures -- especially for juveniles.

Six months later, Sheriff Nat Glover said he would institute some of those recommendations -- including videotaping police interviews with suspects.

A French film made about this case -- "Murder on a Sunday Morning" -- won an Academy Award last month for best feature-length documentary.

Channel 4's Jennifer Waugh hopes to get reaction to the settlement from Sheriff Glover and Butler's family for reports today on Eyewitness News.

Previous Stories: