By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A federal civil jury is now considering whether the City of Philadelphia should be held liable for the 2009 murder of a Port Richmond man by his police officer neighbor.
The jury, now deliberating, must decide if Frank Tepper went on duty when he left his house to address a nearby confrontation, and whether the city’s failure to fire him after earlier incidents of misconduct caused the murder (see related story).
Attorney Jimmy Binns, who represents the family of murder victim William Panas Jr., has argued that Tepper had a documented history of assaulting and threatening kids in the neighborhood, making false arrests, and lying.
“This is part (and) proof of the custom of deliberate indifference that was prevalent throughout the entire police department,” Binns says.
But city attorney Mark Maguire, disputing some details of the earlier incidents, says the city had taken action prior to the murder: Tepper was suspended after one incdient, was counseled after another.
And, says Maguire, there were no incidents for years before the murder of Panas in 2009. No one, he says, could have predicted this would happen.
The Panas family is seeking millions in damages (see related story).