A civil jury in Oklahoma County has awarded a former inmate $39,000 in actual damages after finding that jail detention officers used excessive force against the woman nearly 10 years ago.
Jurors returned verdicts Friday in favor of plaintiff Dionne A. McKinney on two excessive-force claims against Sheriff John Whetsel, including negligent infliction of excessive force, court documents show.
“We do find by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant, John Whetsel, in his individual capacity, acted in reckless disregard of the rights of others,” jurors answered on the verdict form.
Whetsel's attorney could not be reached for comment.
Panel members were scheduled to return Monday to continue deliberating punitive damages, but attorneys for both sides reached a settlement over the weekend, court officials said. The amount of that award was not immediately known.
Also Friday, jurors found in favor of the Oklahoma County board of commissioners, a co-defendant, on the second excessive force claim. The panel found in favor of Whetsel and the board on a third claim of failure to provide adequate medical care to McKinney.
McKinney alleged in court papers she was beaten without provocation by female officers in May 2003 while being booked into the Oklahoma County jail on a complaint of driving under the influence.
The woman's attorney, Aletia H. Timmons, told jurors her client was assaulted by several officers after she asked to use the restroom.
Timmons said the officers slammed McKinney's head against a concrete wall and then threw her to the ground and kicked her. An unidentified officer, the attorney alleged, rubbed McKinney's genitals as she attempted to change out of a dress into orange coveralls.
McKinney, according to court papers, was placed in a holding cell and was taunted by officers. They ignored her requests for medical aid and made her crawl from her cell to a holding room on her hands and knees, the attorney said during the weeklong trial.
Timmons could not be reached for comment Monday.
Attorneys for Whetsel and the board denied the allegations in court, telling jurors “nothing happened” on the night in question.
McKinney, the attorneys said, was “obstinate,” “uncooperative” and “verbally combative,” and “right where she belonged” because she broke the law.
They accused McKinney of fabricating the incident.