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Indybay Feature
Victory in the Pepper Spray Lawsuit
by nopepperspray (repost)
Thursday Apr 28th, 2005 6:24 PM
Unanimous verdict finds police used excessive force against peaceful activists protesting logging of ancient redwoods.
The jury has just returned a unanimous verdict for the activists/plaintiffs, finding the County of Humboldt and City of Eureka liable for excessive force used by Humboldt County Sheriff's Deputies and Eureka Police Officers when they applied pepper spray directly to the eyes of the eight nonviolent forest defense protesters in three incidents in 1997. Former sheriff Dennis Lewis and present sheriff Gary Philp also were found liable for causing the use of excessive force by ordering the unprecedented use of pepper spray on the passive, locked together sit-in demonstrators.

The jury awarded nominal damages of $1 to each of the plaintiffs, who made it clear all along that they weren't suing for the money, but to bring about a change of policy, to stop the use of pepper spray in Humboldt in the way it was used on them. They hope and expect that the verdict will reverberate far beyond rural Humboldt County to make it clear that police can not use the extremely painful pepper spray on non-violent people to coerce them.

The losing defendants will be required under the law to pay the attorneys fees and costs of the plaintiffs, which will no doubt exceed $1 million for litigating the case through three trials and multiple appeals as high as the U.S. Supreme Court.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed at the end of October 1997. After the first trial ended in an evenly split jury in 1998, the judge presiding over the case at the time took it upon himself to decide the case in favor of the defendants, saying no reasonable juror could find that the actions of Humboldt officers was excessive force. After appeals overturned that ruling and granted a new trial, a new legal team took over the case for the activists. Further appeals by the new team removed the first judge for the appearance of bias. Judge Susan Illston replaced him, and a second trial in September 2004 ended in a hung jury split 6-2 in favor of the activists.

The third time was the charm, as the jury of six women and two men reached a unanimous verdict after a day and a half of deliberations.

More details will be posted as soon as they are available. Plaintiffs are talking with the jurors to learn more about how they saw the case and how they reached the verdict. A press release is being prepared, and a press conference is being set up for Friday morning.
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
way to goDeevThursday May 5th, 2005 3:09 AM
using imc "comments" section2 facilitate further discussionSaturday Apr 30th, 2005 2:29 PM
Congratulations!DanielFriday Apr 29th, 2005 4:32 PM
SprayNon-Pepper LoverFriday Apr 29th, 2005 2:46 PM
yeahhhhhLellyFriday Apr 29th, 2005 1:10 PM
Cool!SteveFriday Apr 29th, 2005 8:30 AM
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