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Couple Awarded $1.3 Million In Racial Profiling Lawsuit

A Charleston jury on Wednesday reached a $1.3 million verdict for a couple who said they were arrested because they accused a white state trooper of racial profiling during a 2012 traffic stop. The judgment ended a three-day trial in the civil rights lawsuit by Catherine and Jerome Newkirk, who were pulled over for speeding by Trooper James Enzor in Florence County. The Newkirks alleged that the trooper had used excessive force in wrongfully arresting them. Both spent more than a day in jail, but neither was permanently injured. Much of their ordeal, though, was captured on the lawman’s in-car camera.

“That was invaluable for the jury to see,” Joe McCulloch, an attorney for the Newkirks, said shortly after the jury’s finding was announced in downtown U.S. District Court. “It was very persuasive. The jury was asked to send a message, and they did.” A request for comment from Enzor’s lawyer, Samuel Arthur III of Florence, was not immediately returned. The S.C. Department of Public Safety, the umbrella agency for the Highway Patrol, also was sued but settled with the Newkirks late last week for $100,000.

The verdict allows the couple’s lawyers to petition for a separate award of attorneys fees. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel likely will weigh that request in coming weeks, but it could lift the state’s financial toll to $2 million, McCulloch said. Enzor was later fired over comments he made to a co-worker about his agency’s director. Those words also were caught on video.

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