*Quotes attributed to BE came from short interview I had today with Stewart and photo came from the firm
Stewart Trial Attorneys based in Atlanta — one of the most respected African American law firms in the country — is now handling the Ahmaud Arbery shooting.
Arbery was shot twice and killed by retired district attorney investigator Greg McMichael and his son Travis McMichael. The men said they saw Arbery running and confronted him believing he was leaving a crime.
The Atlanta-based attorney partnered with S. Lee Merritt and Benjamin Crump to represent the Arbery family.
According to BlackBusiness.com, L. Chris Stewart is the founder of the firm, which handles a variety of cases including wrongful death and civil rights. The firm also handles shootings and sexual assaults. Although Stewart has been successful in the civil rights space, it wasn’t his focus originally.
“I’m actually a wrongful death and catastrophic injury lawyer and we’ve just handled civil rights cases as they came along,” Stewart told Black Enterprise. “But there were so many cases in this country like this we’ve taken on.”
Stewart received the 2019 Southern Center For Human Rights Vanguard Award, the 2018 Julia Humbles’ Civil Rights Award, the National Bar Association’s Wiley Branton Award for Leadership.
Attorneys at the firm include Associate Trial Attorney Michael Roth, Attorney of Counsel Joshua Palmer, and Senior Associate Attorney Daedrea Fenwick.
The firm has some high-profile wins on its résumé, including the first-ever billion-dollar jury verdict in U.S. history for a rape victim. Lawyers at the firm also won a record $5.1 million negligent security settlement.
However, Stewart Trial Attorneys is also known for its civil rights cases. The firm won a $6.5 million settlement with South Carolina for the shooting of Walter Scott. In 2015, Scott was shot in the back by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager.
The firm also represented some of the nation’s highest-profile civil rights death cases, including Alton Sterling, who was killed on video by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Stewart told Black Enterprise the laws do not make fighting civil rights cases in court easy.
“There is progress but the problem is there are so many laws against civil rights,” Stewart said.
Shootings of African Americans have been highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic. Charges related to Arbery’s murder was held up for more than two months as two prosecutors recused themselves from the case, and a third stepped down from the case. It was only after African American residents brought light to the case through social media and protests that charges were filed and arrests were made.