A former Inglewood, Calif., police officer who was fired for punching a black teenager and slamming him against a patrol car in an incident that was captured on videotape was awarded $1.6 million Tuesday by the jury in a discrimination lawsuit he and his partner brought against the city.
The jury voted 11-1 in favor of the verdict for Jeremy Morse, said defense attorney Gregory Smith. He said the jury was unanimous in awarding $810,000 to Morse's partner, Bijan Darvish, who had been disciplined in connection with the 2002 incident.
"This is not the first time police officers have been trapped in race situations where they suffered unfairly," Smith said in a phone interview after the verdict was read. "This will have an impact in police departments across the country."
Morse, 27, said he was very happy with the verdict.
He had previously faced a charge of assault, but a judge dismissed it in February 2004 after two juries deadlocked. A jury acquitted Darvish of filing a false report.
A bystander videotaped Morse in July 2002 punching handcuffed Donovan Jackson in the head and slamming him onto a patrol car in Inglewood, just south of Los Angeles.
Morse, who is white, said he reacted to Jackson grabbing his testicles. The videotape does not show whether the grabbing occurred.
Morse was fired two months later, and Darvish was suspended for 10 days for filing a police report that failed to mention his partner's conduct. The two filed the discrimination suit against Inglewood in February 2003, alleging reverse discrimination, Smith said.
Inglewood Police Chief Ronald Banks, who is black, said in a phone interview Tuesday that race was not a factor in his decision to fire Morse and suspend Darvish, who still works as an Inglewood officer. The city has not decided whether to appeal the verdict.
"I based my decision on their actions and what I thought their responsibility was. It was based purely on the facts," he said. "I was shocked at not only the verdict but the size of the awards. It was somewhat ridiculous."
Mayor Roosevelt Dorn called the verdict inflated and inappropriate, but said it was up to the City Council to decide whether to appeal.
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A judge declared a hung jury Tuesday in the police brutality case against a white former officer who punched and slammed a handcuffed black teen onto a squad car during a videotaped arrest.
The jury deliberated more than three days without reaching a verdict in the case of former Inglewood officer Jeremy Morse, whose violent arrest of Donovan Jackson at a gas station last July raised racial tensions and brought back painful memories of the Rodney King beating.
The jury, which included only one black member, was deadlocked 7-5 in favor of conviction against Morse on a charge of assault under color of authority. His partner, Bijan Darvish, 26, was found innocent of falsifying a police report.
They both could have received up to three years in prison if convicted.
Inglewood police officer Bijan Darvish, left, and former officer Jeremy Morse react to the court finding
District Attorney Steve Cooley said his office would review the proceedings and decide whether to seek a retrial. Morse's defense lawyer, John Barnett, said the case should be thrown out.
Morse, 25, sat expressionless with his hands locked after the judge declared a deadlocked jury. Darvish and his attorney banged their fists on the table and quietly uttered "yes."
Someone in the courtroom yelled, "No justice here!" and was silenced by Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth Jr.
People standing outside the courthouse held signs saying "Peace After the Verdict," hoping to prevent riots like the ones that devastated the city after four white police officers were acquitted of state charges in the videotaped beating of King in 1992. The four days of riots left 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.
The Los Angeles Police Department kept officers late on their shifts and increased patrols in the city in case of violence, but authorities reported no violence following the verdict.
"Business is usual," said Inglewood police Sgt. Calvin Smith.
The judge said a hearing on whether to have a retrial would be held Sept. 22, and that if one was to be held it would begin Sept. 29.
Jackson and his father, Coby Chavis, have state and federal civil rights lawsuits pending against the officers, the city and Los Angeles County.
"We do think that this case should definitely be retried and we look forward to that on Sept. 29," said Jackson's attorney, Cameron Stewart. "We are hopeful that this next time around, justice will be served and we in the meantime will proceed vigorously with the civil lawsuit."
Jackson was not in the courtroom Tuesday. Morse and Darvish left the courtroom without comment.
Barnett said he would would ask the judge to dismiss the charge against Morse.
"The basis is that he's been tried once already and that it's unlikely that any jury will convict him. There will be no new evidence and it would be oppressive to put him through a second trial, the result of which would almost certainly be the same," Barnett said.
Darvish's attorney, Ron Brower, said his client is happy with the verdict and is anxious to get to work. Darvish had been doing administrative duty with the police department, but he would return to police duty as early as Wednesday, Brower said.
Morse had been fired from the force in Inglewood, about 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
Race was not mentioned at the trial. In closing arguments, prosecutor Michael Pettersen said Morse was "an angry, out-of-control officer" who administered street justice against Jackson, then 16, because he had struggled with officers.
Barnett portrayed Morse as an officer who was doing his job and had only seconds to decide how much force to use against a potentially dangerous suspect.
The incident began when Jackson came out of the convenience store after buying gas and a bag of chips to find Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies questioning his father about expired license plate tags.
Both sides acknowledged that Jackson made suspicious motions when confronted by officers - he put his hands in his pockets - and resisted arrest. He flailed with officers who took him to the ground after he got out of a police car.
The videotape, filmed by a bystander, began after that point. It showed Morse lifting an apparently limp Jackson by his collar and belt and slamming his head down on the trunk of a police car. Morse then punched the teen in the head after Jackson allegedly grabbed his testicles.
The video also showed a bloody scratch on Morse's head.
Jackson's parents said he has a learning disability and has difficulty in understanding and following instructions. Prosecutors suggested that may have been why he failed to follow police orders.
They also argued that Morse did not need to slam Jackson onto the police car because he wasn't resisting. They contended the youth had passed out or was semiconscious from being choked by a silver necklace he was wearing.
Jackson was not seriously injured. On the witness stand, the teenager gave inconsistent answers about whether he was conscious when Morse slammed him and said he didn't remember much of the incident. He also denied striking or injuring any officers.
Morse and Darvish also have a lawsuit pending against the city of Inglewood. The suit claims they are victims of racial discrimination and were treated more harshly than a black officer at the scene who was suspended for four days.
TORRANCE, CA - A former Inglewood police officer who faced a trial after being videotaped slamming a handcuffed teenager against a patrol car was arrested over the Thanksgiving weekend for allegedly drunken driving, according to a newspaper report.
Jeremy Jay Morse, 26, was arrested in El Segundo on Friday for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Daily Breeze of Torrance reported. Morse was arrested following a traffic stop and later released on $5,000 bail.
El Segundo police declined to release Morse's blood-alcohol level and would not disclose whether Morse took a breath or blood test, the newspaper said. He was ordered to appear in court Jan. 20 to face the charge.
Morse's arrest last year of Donovan Jackson, 16, was widely broadcast. He was shown slamming the handcuffed teenager on a patrol car in an attempt to subdue him.
During his trial, Morse contended the teen resisted officers' attempts to arrest him and grabbed his testicles. The rough treatment of the teen brought back memories for many of the Rodney King beating.
Morse's case eventually ended in a mistrial when jurors announced they were deadlocked 7-5 in favor of guilt.
Morse was subsequently fired from the Inglewood force and faces a second trial for the videotaped incident on a charge of assault under the color of authority. He is due for a pretrial hearing Friday before Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth, who presided over his first assault trial.