published Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Jury finds no fault with 2 McMinn County deputies in alleged 2010 beating

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    Attorney Arthur Knight III, center, walks with his clients Dale Murray, left, and Jonathan Scott, right, Monday as they return to the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building for the afternoon session of a $2 million civil trial in which Jarrett French alleges the McMinn County deputies beat him and broke his left leg during a 2010 traffic stop.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

A jury found no fault Tuesday on the part of two McMinn County Sheriff's Office deputies in an alleged 2010 beating that left an elderly man with a broken leg.

Jarrett French, 72, had sued Dale Murray and Jonathan Scott for $2 million and additional damages. He claimed that the men pulled behind him in his sister's driveway on County Road 84 on Aug. 16, 2010 at about 9 p.m.

The man said that Murray punched him in the face when Jarrett reached for his shirt pocket and then the pair wrestled with him in his Ford Ranger pickup truck before stomping his legs and dragging him to the ground.

But the jury returned within about 90 minutes with a verdict Tuesday, the second day of the federal trial here, finding no fault on the part of the officers.

Murray and Scott's attorney, Arthur Knight III, told jurors throughout the trial that they would have to believe that the two men randomly assaulted French, whom neither had ever met before that night, without provocation.

"I'm here to tell you -- it didn't happen," Knight told the jury during closing arguments Tuesday.

Knight said after the verdict that his clients are happy with the outcome. Jarrett's attorneys never provided a motive or reason the officers would have harmed Jarrett, he said.

Patrick Looper and Russell Greene, Jarrett's attorneys, presented one theory in closing arguments Tuesday morning -- overzealous profiling.

Looper told the jury that the two deputies, who are white, thought they saw a drug transaction when Jarrett, who is black, stopped his truck to talk with his grandson moments before the incident.

Murray testified that they found small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine in Jarrett's shirt pocket. Jarrett denies having drugs. Charges that were filed 10 months after the incident later were dismissed.

But Looper told the jury the officers realized they'd gone overboard with the elderly man when they saw his injuries and planted the drugs to give them an out.

Murray still works for the McMinn County Sheriff's Office. Scott left that office after the incident for work at the Niota Police Department. At that department he was involved in alleged police brutality in a 2011 case involving a different motorist.

Scott was fired from the Niota department in 2013.

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

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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