Trial in alleged police beating to start Monday in McMinn County

Trial in alleged police beating to start Monday in McMinn County

March 6th, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

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An alleged 2010 beating by McMinn County, Tenn., sheriff's deputies of a then-70-year-old man during a traffic stop is scheduled for trial in federal court next week after a hearing here Wednesday.

In the $2 million lawsuit, French Jarrett alleges that he was stopped by deputies Dale Murray and Jonathan Scott on Aug. 16, 2010, and tried to get out of his vehicle.

Jarrett claims that Murray told him to stay in the vehicle and Scott asked for his driver's license.

Murray "without provocation struck [Jarrett] in the head," according to court documents.

Jarrett then says in the civil complaint that the pair dragged him from his vehicle, sprayed him with a chemical weapon, struck him repeatedly with mechanical batons and stomped his legs, breaking his left femur.

The deputies arrested Murray on charges of seat belt violation, simple marijuana possession and resisting arrest before transporting him to Woods Memorial Hospital.

Those charges later were dismissed.

Both men deny Jarrett's account of the incident and claim he resisted arrest and had to be physically restrained.

The original lawsuit also named then-Sheriff Steve Frisbie and the McMinn County government, both of which have been removed from the lawsuit.

Murray still works at the department. Scott transferred to the Niota Police Department, where he was indicted in 2012 along with Sgt. Keith McCarter on official oppression charges in a separate incident. That altercation took place in June 2011 and also involved a traffic stop and involved an alleged beating of a motorist resisting arrest.

The charges against both officers later were dropped. In August 2013 both officers were fired from the Niota Police Department.

Neither Scott's subsequent charges nor Jarrett's criminal charges related to the stop will be shared with the jury after pretrial rulings by U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier on requests to limit evidence.

Jarrett's attorneys, Patrick Looper and Russell Greene, are asking for $2 million in compensatory damages for their client's injuries and for punitive damages to be determined by a jury.

Looper, Greene and attorney for McMinn County Arthur Knight III are all Knoxville-based. The men told Collier on Wednesday that they expected the trial could take as few as two days. It is scheduled to begin Monday morning with jury selection.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.