Jury Finds In Favor Of Texas Sheriff In Suit Brought By Chattanooga Photographer

Friday, August 22, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

A Federal Court jury on Friday found in favor of a Texas sheriff and his chief deputy who had been sued by a Chattanooga photographer.

The jury in the courtroom of Judge Curtis Collier awarded no damages to Donna Johnson.

In his closing argument after a two-week civil trial, attorney John Anderson said, "This is about the Fourth Amendment." Attorney Anderson represented Ms. Johnson, who sued Sheriff David Duke and Chief Deputy Alan Boyd of Wichita County, Tex.

, for allegedly having her arrested without probable cause.

Sheriff Duke testified earlier that his department made payments, but did not get their photos after months had past. He said he spoke with other sheriff departments, who told him they had the same experience.

However, attorney Anderson said when Ms. Johnson was arrested on Nov. 30, 2011, the Wichita County Sheriff's Office did not have enough information for probable cause.

He said, "What you won't find in this file is when they had the information...Either there was a rush to judgement and they were sloppy in this file, or that was standard procedure at the Wichita County Sheriff's Office."

He said much of the information in the file on Ms. Johnson used to get an arrest warrant was added months later.

Attorney Anderson also said employees from the Sheriff's Office admitted that they would tell people there was not a warrant out for them when there actually was in order to bring them in.

He said, "It's either ok to lie or it's not."

He told the jury, "I'm going to submit to you Nov. 30 is the date you stop considerations. Everything after that is backfill."

He continued, saying law enforcement must be held to a higher standard. He said, "It's never ok for the Sheriff's Department to lie."

However, defense attorney Jerry Tidwell said, "Even if a person was found not guilty does not mean there was not probable cause...Absolute certainty is not required."

He said, "There is probable cause...They're putting all of the information in there that's needed. It's just the format isn't pleasing to the plaintiff because she got arrested because of it."

He continued, "The fact that a date or amount may be incorrect does not eliminate probable cause."

He told the jury to take Ms. Johnson's life experiences into consideration when they judged her credibility.

He said she had lied about her education on multiple occasions, once telling an employer she graduated from the University of Florida and another time saying she graduated from Cleveland State Community College.

Attorney Tidwell also said, "She said somebody broke into her office and stole checks, but she didn't cancel her checking account or anything like that."

He said at one point, she said her father had passed away and that was the reason she had not finished her promised photographs. However, Attorney Tidwell said her father is currently alive and living in Bradley County.

He closed his argument, "I think it's time to close this out. I think you need to send this lady home empty handed. I think you need to end this hustle."

The jury left to deliberate Friday afternoon.

It was an expensive trial for Wichita County, which had to call a special meeting of its county governing body to approve the costs. 



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