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Jury awards $1.325 million for civil rights violations during traffic stop

On March 15, 2017, a Charleston jury returned a verdict finding a husband and wife’s civil rights were violated by a former South Carolina highway patrolman who arrested them during a traffic stop.

The plaintiffs, Jerome C. Newkirk and Catherine B. Newkirk, were pulled over by the trooper while driving on I-95 in Florence County on October 14, 2012. The driver, Mrs. Newkirk, told the jury she was not speeding in the 55 mph work zone. The trooper’s¬†dashboard camera (video below)¬†showed that after Mrs. Newkirk told the officer “I think there’s a little bit of discrimination going on here,” she was ordered out of the vehicle and arrested.

Mr. Newkirk exited the vehicle to investigate what was going on, he was ordered to return to the vehicle, which he did, but was subsequently arrested. The couple spent almost two days in jail before being released. All charges against them were subsequently dropped.

Each claimed wrongful arrest, a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, and sought damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, and reputation harm.

The jury award Mrs. Newkirk $1 million dollars in actual damages after hearing testimony she continues to suffer from and seek treatment for post-traumatic stress. Mr. Newkirk was awarded $300,000 in actual damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.

The Newkirks were represented by Dick Harpootlian and Joe McCulloch of McCulloch & Schillaci.

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