Federal jury deadlocks on whether veteran Portland cop unlawfully detained … – OregonLive.com
A federal jury late Friday deadlocked on whether a Portland police veteran officer acted with reasonable suspicion when he detained an African American woman while investigating a suspected mail theft case involving a suspect described as a Hispanic male.
But the jury found the veteran cop’s trainee, rookie Officer Justin Winkel, who had just one year on the job when the Feb. 17, 2012 stop occurred, did not violate Lisa Haynes’ constitutional rights, and did not grope her after arresting her for disorderly conduct, as she had alleged.
The eight-member jury deliberated more than six and a half hours, returning the mixed verdict about 10:30 p.m. following a three-day civil trial before U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez. An Oregon Court of Appeals judge was among the jurors.
The judge declared a mistrial on the allegations filed against Officer Greg Baldwin, a 24-year bureau member, and set a late January date for a new trial. Yet Hernandez urged the attorneys for the city of Portland, who represented the officers, and Haynes’ lawyer to speak before then to try to resolve the case.
“I think they know it’s a close call,” Haynes’ lawyer Gerald Noble said of the city, after the hung jury was announced. Noble called the judge’s request that the parties try to discuss if a settlement can be reached a good idea, but he’ll have to consult with Haynes, who did not return to court for the late verdict.
“The jury spoke,” deputy city attorney James Rice said afterwards. “We look forward to resolving the final piece of the claim.”
The hung jury comes more than three years after the 2012 encounter.
Haynes argued that the officers didn’t have reasonable suspicion to detain her, when her gender, race, height and weight didn’t match the suspect’s description.
City attorneys argued that Haynes’ clothing matched the suspect’s, that she didn’t follow the officers’ lawful orders to provide her name and identification and created a disturbance.
The officers stopped Haynes as she said she was waiting for a bus at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Foster Road about 10 a.m. that day. A witness had called 911, describing a man rifling through mailboxes near Southeast 72nd Avenue and Steele Street. He described the suspect as a Hispanic male, thin, in his 30s, 5-feet-4 to 5-feet-6 inches tall, wearing a black jacket, cream-colored beanie and carrying a black backpack.
Baldwin and Winkel were riding together in a patrol car when Baldwin spotted Haynes. Baldwin radioed to dispatch that he saw a “black female,” and questioned if the witness was certain he saw a Hispanic male. The dispatcher said he wasn’t sure, but the witness could be contacted.
Baldwin and Winkel then drove into the lot of a Wells Fargo bank at 82nd and Foster. By then, Haynes, who is 4 foot 10 and weighs 147 pounds, was standing under the ATM awning beside the bank to stay out of the rain.
The officers said they approached and detained Haynes in an investigatory stop because her black jacket, black backpack and crème-colored hat beneath her jacket’s hood matched the suspect description. Baldwin also testified that he still believed Haynes was a Hispanic male, until she started yelling later in their encounter, despite his earlier radio dispatch that he’d spotted a black female.
Deputy City Attorney Rebeca Plaza argued that the sole witness could have mistaken Haynes for a Hispanic male. Further, she argued, Haynes was in the geographical area of where the suspect was last seen heading.
“They did what they’re expected to do,” Plaza said of the officers.
Haynes, 50, testified that the officers asked for her name and ID, and told her only that they had gotten a call about a suspicious person. Haynes said she asked why they needed her name, and insisted she had done nothing wrong. She said she got their OK to call her son, but soon Baldwin told her to get off the phone and asked where her ID was located. Haynes admitted she didn’t get off the phone because she was scared.
“They didn’t have reasonable suspicion to stop her,” Noble told jurors. “If you get race and gender wrong that’s unreasonable in and of itself. The height and weight was way off.” Noble said the officers should have verified the suspect description with the sole witness, before detaining Haynes.
But Plaza said the officers acted appropriately to stop Haynes and prevent her from getting away as the investigation proceeded into the felony mail theft report – even to eliminate her as a potential suspect.
“What happened next was the result of the plaintiff’s actions,” Plaza told jurors.
Baldwin testified that he offered to get Haynes’ ID out of her backpack, and made a “gesture” toward the pack. Baldwin said he did so as a “ruse ” to see how’d she react, thinking she might have stolen mail in it. Haynes, however, said Baldwin reached to grab her backpack before she did. Winkel, in his police report, noted that Baldwin “reached” for the pack.
The officers both testified that Haynes then “lunged” for her backpack, and they grabbed her arms to handcuff her. They said they thought she might have had a weapon in the backpack and were concerned for their safety. There was no dispute that Haynes was yelling that the officers were violating her rights, calling for someone to videotape the encounter and asking them what she had done.
Baldwin, though, described her “tumultuous screaming and yelling” as alarming and causing such a disturbance that he feared it would distract a motorist in the busy intersection and cause a crash. That’s when they arrested her, placed her in the back of their patrol car and accused her of disorderly conduct, interfering with police and resisting arrest.
Noble called the police explanation bogus. “It’s not a crime to yell you’re violating my rights,” he said. And of Baldwin’s testimony that he was scared someone was going to crash because of Hayes’ outbursts, Noble told jurors, “Give me a break.”
Hayes was released from the scene after the witness was brought to the location and was unable to identify her as the mail thief. About two months later, she called the emergency communications bureau to try to learn why police had stopped her. An employee who located the police call and 911 dispatch records filed a complaint with the city about the officers’ stop.
“Their whole story is a ruse, that’s what it is,” Noble argued, contending the officers lied on the witness stand.
Haynes filed her lawsuit after the Portland Police Bureau exonerated the officers of any wrongdoing. She had sought between $50,000 and $150,000 in damages. “She just wanted some justice or just find out why they did what they did,” Noble said.
Andrew Watkins, the man who reported the mail theft and testified by speaker phone at trial, said he was “fairly confident” Haynes was the mail thief suspect but wasn’t 100 percent sure. Baldwin, though, testified that to this day he believes he stopped the right person. The city suspects Haynes lunged for her backpack to conceal an unmarked TriMet ticket and hole puncher they found inside.
Jury forewoman Elizabeth Schmidt told the judge that further deliberations would be futile in trying to reach an unanimous verdict on whether Baldwin violated Haynes’ constitutional rights. After the jury was dismissed, Schmidt said there wasn’t one holdout juror on that question, but the jurors’ opinions were “pretty mixed.”
“Constitutional rights are tough,” Schmidt said. She declined to comment on why the jurors felt differently about Winkel, versus Baldwin.
During closing arguments, Haynes’ lawyer characterized Winkel as “almost a victim,” and said it was sad he was being trained by Baldwin.
Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Erin C. Lagesen, who was among the jurors, declined to comment late Friday, saying she was too tired.
The deputy city attorneys who defended the police and Haynes’ attorney were in agreement about one thing: The police contact should never have ended up in a federal case.
“This should have been a non-event. This should have been a conversation,” Plaza said in her closing statement.
The plaintiff’s attorney shared that sentiment. “We shouldn’t be here today,” Noble told jurors. “Unfortunately, it came to this.”
— Maxine Bernstein