From [HERE] and [HERE] A Hinds County Circuit Court jury has awarded $1 million to the family of a 67-year-old Jackson woman killed in 2014 after family members and others say Jackson police bungled the woman's 911 call about a prowler.
"If they would have followed policy and procedures, more likely than not, it would have saved her life," said attorney Dennis Sweet III, who represented Ruth Helen Harrion's family members.
"I hope this verdict sends a message that the city needs to get things right," Sweet said after the verdict.
According to the family attorney, Dennis Sweet III, two trials occurred Friday in Hinds County Circuit Court, the last day of the testimony.
A Civil Rights violation case against the City of Jackson was determined by a jury and a Mississippi Tort Claims Act case was decided by Judge Adrienne Wooten.
“Actually it was a dual trial. We trialed the 1983 action. Which is a jury trial, and now the judge has to make a decision on the tort claims act. You know that’s capped at 500,000. But it’s a judge trial, it’s not a jury trial. So she heard the evidence as the case was going forward. So she’ll make that determination," said Sweet.
Jurors began deliberating in the lawsuit filed by Harrion’s children Friday evening.
The family claimed a violation of civil rights, reckless disregard and negligence.
The jury deliberated for about an hour and 40 minutes before returning the verdict Friday night.
Five of Harrion's children held up a family poster board with pictures of their late mother following the verdict.
"This verdict was for my mother," said Angela Harrion of Jackson.
The lawsuit said that after Harrion called 911 to report a prowler, the dispatcher failed to keep her on the phone, failed to ask the location of the prowler and whether she could see the prowler. The suit also said officers dispatched to Harrion’s residence failed to make contact with her and failed to search the perimeter of the home prior to leaving the residence.Alonzo Stewart, 33, is charged with capital murder in Herrion's death. He confessed to the crime, according to authorities, and told police he was in Harrion's home when the officers came and left.
Then-Jackson Police Chief Lindsey Horton said in 2014 that JPD mishandled the case. At the time, he told the Clarion Ledger that the two officers failed to thoroughly check the property from which the call had originated.
One of Harrion's family members discovered her body behind her Kingsroad Avenue home about 11 hours later.
She had been beaten, strangled and shot in the face, according to Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham Stewart. The victim's neck also had been broken, Grisham Stewart said, and it appeared she had been sexually assaulted.
Stewart hasn't gone to trial based on questions about his mental competency. The last entry in his court file shows Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd has set a Dec. 2 trial date for Stewart.
Harrion had called Jackson dispatchers at 2:23 a.m on July 15, 2014, to report a prowler, according to a 911 tape obtained by the Clarion Ledger. When the officers arrived 8 minutes later, nobody answered the door, and they left.
"They should have made contact with the complainant," Horton said in 2014. "They should have made contact with her to make sure of her of her welfare. But they did not do that."
"We have a practice and policy in place," he said, "and in this occasion I think they did not follow that."
The dispatcher, Debra Goldman, and officers Derrick Evans and Tommie Heard were later fired but reinstated by the Jackson Civil Service Commission, according to court records.
Assistant City Attorney Richard Davis argued in court that the plaintiffs couldn't identify a policy that was violated, an alleged unconstitutional policy or act where Harrion's constitutional rights were violated.
Davis said the only person to blame is Stewart for Harrion's murder.
"i sympathize with this family, but there is someone responsible, a man who shouldn't have been walking the streets of Jackson," Davis said of Stewart.
In a statement released on behalf of the family Friday night through Sweet, they said they were still still seeking justice.
"The family of Ruth Helen Harrion and her attorneys are pleased that the City of Jackson was found to be responsible for failing to react to her 911 call appropriately. This, however, is just one part of the justice they are seeking. Family members continue to wait for the man who brutally raped and killed Mrs. Harrion to be held accountable for his crimes."