Jurors speak out

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Plaintiffs awarded $310K in case involving SPD


The Selma Times-Journal

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Dallas County jurors impaneled to decide the civil case of former Selma police officers deliberated for four and a half hours, said the most of their time was spent trying to decide how much to award, not whether the officers overstepped their bounds.

Following the trial and awarding $310,000 in damages to the plaintiffs, several jurors agreed to speak to the media. The Times-Journal felt jurors would be more candid if their identities remained anonymous.

The case involved three young black men against six former Selma Police Department officers, who in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, 2000, responded to a distress call at a night club downtown on Alabama Avenue. Three of the officers were dismissed from the lawsuit because in what turned out to be a melee they were not positively identified or caused no harm.

Consisting of three whites and nine blacks, jurors listened to two and a half days of testimony. They heard from witnesses on both sides, recalling the events of six years ago. The evidence was sworn statements and police incident/arrest reports. There were no pictures of injuries sustained that night. There was no video, as in the Rodney King incident.

Kindaka Sanders, John Moss Jr. and Kenyatta Gaines filed a lawsuit against the officers in Dallas County Circuit Court seeking damages after their party that ended in a dispute between two other men. The lawsuit claimed the officers overreacted when a distress call brought more than 50 police officers, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies with guns drawn.

The incident resulted in the lawsuit against Brian Gallion, Josh McDanal, Michael Heath, Michael Rushing and Chuck Webber, who was the supervisor on duty. A sixth officer, Moses Suttles, the only black officer charged, was released from the lawsuit before proceedings began. Heath and Rushing were dismissed from the lawsuit before deliberations began.

Another juror said they found the whole process difficult, especially the jury selection process.

Likes and dislikes apart, jurors talked to said the bottom line was going by the law. Jurors asked Judge Marvin Wiggins several questions during deliberations. All of them helped define the law.

Jurors said they noticed Jasper Bowie’s behavior, and how his demeanor changed when two SPD officers came in as spectators while Bowie was on the witness stand.

Another juror said they did not feel witness Chuck Webber was telling the truth.

One juror told The Times-Journal they had &8220;been talked too&8221; disrespectfully themselves by Webber, during a routine traffic stop years ago.