Key West to settle police Tasing case for $850,000 with family of man left brain damaged from fall

Matthew Murphy's son Kaeden kisses his father, who remains in a Miami long-term care facility.
Matthew Murphy's son Kaeden kisses his father, who remains in a Miami long-term care facility.

A family whose son was left confined to a hospital bed since he fell to the ground in 2011 after being shocked by a Key West police officer's Taser is willing to accept an $850,000 settlement from the city to end a federal lawsuit.

City commissioners will decide Wednesday whether to sign off on the proposed settlement with Marty Murphy, the father of Matthew Murphy, and Marie Annulysse, the mother of the permanently injured man's son. Insurance would cover the settlement, the city's hired attorney Michael Burke said in a March 4 memo.

The family said Officer Mark Siracuse didn't give any warning as he came up behind Murphy, who had just punched a man on Duval Street, and deployed the Taser stun gun on April 16, 2011. Police said Siracuse was doing his job.

Murphy, 27 at the time, fell to the ground, suffering a traumatic brain injury that has left him in a Miami long-term care facility, unable to breathe or eat on his own or move his arms and legs, Burke said in the memo.

City Attorney Shawn Smith is also advising the commission to settle the case, saying while the officer followed the law, a jury could very well sympathize with the Murphy family, given the severity of Matthew Murphy's injuries, and return a much larger verdict. The family sued on April 4, 2015.

Murphy's parents, who live in West Virginia, have already accumulated more $1 million in medical bills and their son will require 24-hour care for the rest of his life, Burke noted.

Murphy was walking with Annulysse on Duval Street when, the family says, a woman began taunting the couple with racial slurs. Annulysse is black; Murphy is white.

When the woman's boyfriend stood up for her, Murphy punched the man and, police say, was about to punch him again when Siracuse used his Taser.

The Murphys said Siracuse didn't announce police were present before firing the Taser -- something even the man who was on the receiving end of Murphy's punch has also stated publicly.

If approved by the commission, which meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St., the six-figure settlement would follow a $900,000 settlement the city made in January 2015 to end a wrongful-death lawsuit with the family of Charles Eimers.

Eimers, 61, died in police custody in 2013, six days after police officers held him face down on the beach on Thanksgiving after he fled a traffic stop and wouldn't stop until he ran out of Duval Street at South Beach.

The Eimers settlement was paid for by the city's insurance on behalf of Office Gary Lee Lovette and meant the city didn't have to admit fault or liability related to the death.

Like the Eimers case, police have been cleared of wrongdoing by Key West police and the Monroe County State Attorney's Office.