ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s high court Thursday resolved a dispute among family members of Prince Jones Jr., who was mistakenly killed by a Prince George’s County Police officer, over who was entitled to sue for damages in his death.
The Court of Appeals ruled Jones’ father, his fiancee, Candace Jackson, and his daughter, Nina Jones, were all entitled to file wrongful death actions against Prince George’s County, the police chief, the department and the officer who fatally shot the unarmed man in Fairfax, Va.
Prince George’s Circuit Court had ruled that only Jones’ mother, Mabel S. Jones, who has a multi-million wrongful death action pending, was able to pursue the claim because she was the court appointed representative for Jones’ estate.
Appeals Judge John C. Eldridge wrote under Maryland law all the family members were entitled to make their claim.
Attorneys for the family members and Prince George’s County did not return calls for comment.
Prince Jones Jr., 25, was fatally shot 5 times by an undercover narcotics officer in September 2000. The Howard University student was pursued through Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia by the officer, who believed he was a tailing a suspected drug dealer.
Carlton Jones (no relation), the police officer involved in the shooting was exonerated earlier this year by an internal investigation. But Jones’ death led to public outcry and allegations of police brutality and use of excessive force by the Prince George’s County Police. It also contributed to a U.S. Justice Department investigation into a pattern of civil rights violations by the Prince George’s County Police Department.
The Circuit Court applied Virginia law, which only allowed action by the estate’s representative, in ruling that only Mabel Jones had the right to sue.
The Court of Appeals, however, reasoned that since the beneficiaries obviously have a greater interest than anyone else under Maryland’s wrongful death statute they were entitled to sue.
“Maryland obviously has strong interests in this action. Denying the plaintiffs access to the courts of this state implicates important policy considerations,” Eldridge wrote. “The sequence of actions that ended in Virginia began in Maryland. Certain claims are entirely controlled by Maryland law.”