COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A federal jury has awarded $1.3 million to a North Carolina couple suing the state Department of Public Safety and a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper on the basis of a discrimination and racial profiling suit filed in 2013.
Attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Joe McCulloch represented Catherine and Jerome Newkirk. The couple was stopped for speeding in Florence County back in October 2012 by Trooper James Enzor.
Enzor, according to court documents, stopped the Newkirks for traveling 77 MPH in a 55 MPH construction zone on Interstate 95. When Catherine received the ticket, the documents say, she told Enzor that she believed she was the subject of discrimination.
Court filings say at that point, Enzor snatched the ticket from Catherine and commanded her to get out of the car. The entire exchange was captured on Enzor's dashcam video.
"Defendant Enzor began pointing his finger and shouting at the Plaintiff in a loud, abusive, and discourteous manner," the filing said. "He grabbed the Plaintiff, then advised her that she was under arrest and proceeded to manhandle her, placing her in handcuffs."
Catherine fought her arrest for several minutes, disputing the officer's grounds for taking her to jail.
"We did nothing wrong," Catherine said in a 2013 interview with WIS.
The trooper charged Catherine with resisting arrest and assaulting him and charged her husband with interfering with the arrest.
The video shows Jerome Newkirk walk to within yards of his wife and the trooper, then get back in his SUV once the trooper told him to return to the car.
McCulloch said the dashcam footage had "incalculable value" in the case.
"The video shows exactly what happened," McCulloch said. "It takes a lot of the credibility contest out of the case."
As a result of the suit, Catherine was awarded $1,000,000 for her portion of the suit and Jerome was awarded $325,000. The Newkirks are also hoping to receive $500,000 in attorneys fees.
McCulloch said Catherine was awarded her amount largely due to her testimony about the psychological factors in this case.
"She was shell-shocked," McCulloch said. "Post-traumatic stress was her diagnosis and there was significant evidence about that and the jury believed that."
McCulloch said he and Harpootlian were both pleased with the verdict, saying the goal for the Newkirks at the end of the day was to hold Enzor accountable.
"The verdict is very defensible if the Defendant tries to appeal it," McCulloch said. "In light of the evidence, it was a clean trial."