LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – A jury awarded $2.25 million Wednesday to a former University of Louisville student who was wrongfully arrested by a Louisville Metro police detective more than a decade ago.
The trial in the lawsuit filed by Tiffany Washington, who was working at the school's library when she was arrested by former Det. Crystal Marlowe for robbery in 2007, wrapped up and was sent to the jury on Wednesday.
After an eight-day trial and about two hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Washington $2 million in compensatory damages and $250,000 in a punitive award.
"This has taken 11 years to get here and is vindication for Tiffany," said attorney Ryan Vantrease, who represented Washington along with lawyers Patrick Markey, John Bahe and David Mushlin. "What happened to her is atrocious, and this restores our faith in the constitution."
Attorney Carroll Pettit, one of the attorneys representing Marlowe on behalf of the city, declined to comment on the verdict and said it was "very premature" to say whether there will be an appeal.
Washington's lawsuit was among more than a dozen filed against Marlowe in 2010, claiming she arrested them for crimes they could not have committed.
The lawsuits followed an investigation by The Courier-Journal, which reported in a series of articles in 2010 that Marlowe arrested more than a dozen people over a two-year period who could not have committed the crimes, either because they were already in jail at the time, or because of other evidence that supported their innocence.
Four other trials by other plaintiffs against Marlowe will be scheduled in upcoming months.
Bahe, one of Washington's attorneys, told the jury in closing arguments Wednesday that charging an innocent person with a crime is "an American nightmare." He described how Washington, then working at the UofL library, missed her finals while in jail on two felony charges and then had to wait a month before the case was dismissed.
In December 2007, Marlowe issued an arrest warrant for Washington after the detective said a robbery victim was able to "positively ID" her as one of three perpetrators.
But Washington had bank statements, pictures, telephone records and eyewitness testimony showing that she was in Henderson County, 130 miles away, on the night of the robbery.
Washington spent five days in jail before her $50,000 cash bond was reduced to an amount she was able to post. A grand jury chose not to indict her. Marlowe was fired in 2011 by former Chief Robert White for wrongfully arresting several people and is no longer in law enforcement.
Washington was depressed and suicidal, "enduring pure hell" while waiting to see if she would be indicted and face up to 20 years in prison, Bahe said. She is still on depression and anxiety medication.
"She has fought this case" for more than a decade and "today she finally gets her day in court," he told the Jefferson Circuit Court jury.
Both Washington and Marlowe testified during the trial, which started early last week. Parts of Chief White's deposition and past statements were shown to jurors in which he said Washington was "falsely" arrested, Marlowe showed an improper photo pack to the victim and didn't investigate whether Washington had an alibi.
Since Washington had no criminal history, Marlowe used her driver's license which stood out in opposition to mug shots of others in the pack.
"It was screaming 'pick me,'" said Bahe of the photo pack.
The alleged victim also testified during the trial that she still believes Washington was involved in the robbery in which she was also pistol whipped. No one else was ever charged.
The lawsuits against Marlowe have lingered in court for years on several motions to dismiss, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 there was enough evidence supporting the claims of malicious prosecution against Marlowe for the cases to move forward.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Audra Eckerle dismissed five of the suits, allowing five others to go to separate trials in a summary judgement ruling on June 19.
Marlowe was fired in 2011 after a police investigation found she had failed to follow proper police procedure in arresting people for crimes they didn't commit.
The city has spent nearly $138,000 defending Marlowe since the suits were filed in 2010, according to records provided by the Jefferson County Attorney's office.
Pettit, an attorney for Marlowe, told jurors the detective was "trying to do her job, trying to serve justice" and argued that, in the end, "the system worked" in this case.
She told jurors that Marlowe had a positive identification from a victim and, "like it or not," police officers are not required to seek "exculpatory evidence," or evidence that would show a person did not commit a crime.
But Bahe said Marlowe did not follow standard operating police procedures and simply wanted to quickly make an arrest, close the case and "let the system figure it out."
"The goal is to find who did the crime and not imprison innocent people," he told the jury. "This is not how a detective acts when they are promoting the interest of justice. Until you have good evidence, you don't arrest the innocent and Marlowe didn't have good evidence."
Some of the people Marlowe arrested were out of town when the crimes occurred, while others were in jail on other charges.
While there were 10 plaintiffs, Judge Eckerle ruled that five of the arrests were not "unreasonable or plainly incompetent," and that Marlowe is entitled to official immunity.
The other current plaintiffs are Vaughn Carter, Robert Mitchem, Dale Todd and Rodshaud White. The dates for these trials have not yet been scheduled.
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