Chicago woman awarded $7.7 million for false arrest

A trained nurse, Rachelle Jackson immediately ran toward the sound of the crash. A Chicago police car had collided with another vehicle and was starting to smoke, two officers still inside. Fearing an explosion, she quickly pulled one officer from the passenger side.She never imagined her act of kindness nearly six years ago would land her in jail for more than 10 months on charges that she robbed, battered and disarmed a peace officer.

Jackson filed a lawsuit, and on Thursday a federal jury found against the city and several Chicago police officers, awarding Jackson $7.7 million for false arrest, malicious prosecution, coercive questioning and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“I’m going to go home and lie down for a little bit,” an ecstatic Jackson, 41, said after the verdict. “I feel relieved. I’m happy, and I’m thanking God.”

The case began in November 2002, when a car ran a stop sign in Jackson’s neighborhood, slamming into the squad car. Jackson was walking nearby and rushed to the scene. When she arrived, the officer behind the wheel was unconscious and the passenger, Officer Kelly Brogan, was dazed.

She pulled Brogan from the wreckage and helped her to a nearby stoop. Soon after, police approached Jackson and told her that the driver’s weapon had been stolen. When she was asked to go to the police station for questioning, she thought it was as a witness to the accident.

Instead, Jackson was accused of the theft. She was held for two days with little food and water and was threatened with violence until she agreed to sign a statement police had prepared for her. She was then charged and spent more than 10 months in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial.

Her case was later thrown out by a Circuit Court judge. Jackson sued the city, Brogan and the two interrogation officers in 2003.

Defense attorney Andrew Hale said the amount the jury awarded Jackson was “excessive” and that he would file post-trial motions to have the amount reduced.

He also questioned Jackson’s intentions when she pulled the officer from the car.

“The officer said [Jackson] came at her, tried to get her gun and put her in a full-Nelson hold,” Hale said. “I’m disappointed the jury could think that would be a legitimate rescue technique.”

But Jackson’s attorneys said it was clear she was trying to help the officer, not harm her.

“This was an innocent woman who saved a police officer from a burning car,” said Chris Smith, who tried the case with Dan Alexander. “There were many heroes out there who helped the police, but they all turned into suspects because some guy ran away with the gun.”

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3 Responses to “Chicago woman awarded $7.7 million for false arrest”

  1. Kathy Hopely Says:

    This is an interesting case. I agree with the verdict, however, I disagree with the amount of the verdict merely because I am against most huge dollar verdicts. I understand there are circumstances in this case like Jackson having actually spent time in jail for this that may seem to justify it, but such a large amount of money could be put to better use. I believe in set dollar amounts for certain types of cases. I am not exactly sure how to accomplish that because no case is ever exactly alike, but I think there are enough bright legal minds out there to get this done.

  2. John 454 Says:

    Big awards have a reason to exist. If police thought they could settle a abuse suit for reasonable amounts, there would be more of them.

    The big settlement isn’t just for THIS victim, its to make sure they don’t try to do the same thing to you or me.

    When I try to put myself in her place, I can hardly imagine going through something like that.

    To my way of thinking the authorities can KEEP their large settlement payments…..all they have to do is JUST STOP THE OBVIOUS ABUSES THEY ARE DOING!

    I mean when cops run a screwdriver up a guys butt and then have to pay out $4 million in a settlement…..and THEN CONTINUE with more abuses, maybe we need larger ones…..or maybe criminal charges against the cops.
    The people that are SUPPOSED to be in charge don’t seem to be doing much to curb the abuses, so the only solutions are those that are within the “system”.
    And yeah, they suck!

  3. Emily MacGowan Says:

    Actually, I think there will always be people who abuse the system . It doesn’t mean that the system is all bad. Our system of government is complex but The U.S. is still the best place to live. It always feels crummy when people who are supposed to be keeping the law and protecting us do terrible things. But lets not lump everything into one category and say that it sucks. There is still an awful lot of good things out there even if we have to look a bit harder to find it.

    I have an internship at the public defenders office this semester. There are people who try to and do abuse the system. But I would never say that everyone who applies for a Public Defender is automatically up to no good.

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