CHP wins case
Judge Thomas E. Warriner read the verdict at 3:30 p.m. in Plumas County Superior Court in Quincy. The jurors deliberated most of the day before reaching a verdict.
The Jackson family appeared stunned as 11 of the 12 jurors said they voted in favor of the CHP.
As the jurors filed out of the room, the two CHP officers who were on trial and their attorney quietly gestured their appreciation to the nine-woman, three-man panel. But the officers weren’t celebrating.
“We are gratified,” said attorney Stephen Pass, who represented the CHP officers.
Pass said he had the option of moving the trial out of Plumas County. “But we didn’t,” he said. “I felt we could get a fair trial here.
“I think it says a lot about the people of this county, that despite certain feelings, they were able to set those feelings aside and be impartial,” Pass said.
Jackson said she couldn’t understand the jury’s decision.
“After all the trouble the people here have had with the highway patrol, I just can’t believe that a majority of the jury would come to this conclusion,” Jackson said. “I’m stunned.”
CHP officers Jim Wheaton and Lacey Heitman, though appearing visibly relieved and thankful, didn’t want to comment on the record until they had approval from their office.
Quincy Area CHP Commander Bruce Carpenter said his department was advised not to comment.
“It’s still considered active litigation,” Carpenter said. “There is always the possibility of an appeal.”
Carpenter said the CHP was preparing a statement and the officers would be available for comment “at the appropriate time.”
Jackson’s civil lawsuit stemmed from her Sept. 12, 2009, arrest and jailing on charges of driving under the influence after she left an Oktoberfest event at the Blairsden Barn, where she was working as a volunteer.
Her civil complaint said she had a blood alcohol level of 0.00 and had no drugs in her system at the time of her arrest.
However, the jury sided with the CHP’s claim that Jackson appeared to be impaired after failing field sobriety tests.
During closing arguments, Pass went over a checklist that CHP officers are trained to look for during field sobriety tests.
He told the jury the officers stopped Jackson because she was driving too slow and swerving.
During the sobriety tests, he said Jackson appeared lethargic and her responses to questions and physical tests were consistent with the actions of an impaired driver.
He said it was the officers’ duty to make sure she didn’t continue driving.
“This was always a public safety issue,” he told the jury. “Mrs. Jackson wasn’t harmed. Was it unpleasant? Yes.”
But Jackson said that, at the very least, her reputation was harmed.
“She was deeply affected by this,” Jackson’s attorney Julia Jackson told the jury. Julia Jackson is also Ruth Jackson’s daughter. “This hurt her and continues to hurt her. She was embarrassed and humiliated. She felt like her explanations were disregarded by the officers.”
Julia Jackson said the officers made a decision to pull over Ruth Jackson based on the fact that she was leaving an event where alcohol was being served.
She said the officers confused her mother’s responses with being impaired instead of taking into account her age and physical condition. She said Ruth Jackson had 12 foot surgeries that affected her ability to stand.
At one point in the closing argument, Julia Jackson became emotional. She said if Ruth Jackson could be considered impaired when she wasn’t, there was a possibility she could be arrested again for the same thing.
Pass told the jury Ruth and the Jacksons are a well-respected family in the community. He countered their claim that Ruth Jackson’s reputation was damaged by noting she was re-elected to board positions on the Quincy Community Services District and the League of Women Voters after her 2009 arrest.
Jurors heard four days of testimony during the trial that began with jury selection on June 12.
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