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Attorney to appeal ruling in strip search case

Thursday, July 25, 2002

After a federal court jury consisting of three men and nine women ruled July 17 that former Izard County Sheriff Donnie Joe Yancey and former deputy Willene Bray did not violate an Oxford woman's civil rights in March 1998, the plaintiff's attorney, Ed Chandler, said "I definitely intend to appeal the case."

Chandler said he was surprised and shocked by the verdict since the jury was leaning in the other direction earlier. Chandler said the jury was hung up with a 7-5 split in favor of his client, Kitty Fern Eaddy, but U.S. District Judge George Howard sent jurors back into the jury room after some said they thought more deliberations might help.

Eaddy was seeking millions in compensatory and punitive damages from the defendants, claiming that Bray had performed an unreasonable strip search and body cavity search on her at Yancey's instruction.

According to the order filed Nov. 26, 2001, in the U.S. District Court, Eaddy contends that on March 4, 1999, Yancey and other law enforcement officers entered her house to administer a drug test on Michael Leggett, a parolee, who was staying at Eaddy's house at the time. The order noted that Yancey announced Leggett had failed the urinalysis.

The order said officers proceeded to search the entire house but authorities did not have a search warrant.

The order said Bray arrived at Eaddy's residence around 10:45 p.m. and at Yancey's instruction, she took Eaddy into the bathroom, where she subjected her to a strip search but did not use any gloves and the inspection was painful. No drugs were found on Eaddy but Leggett was arrested for parole violation and taken to jail that night.

According to testimony from Bray, Yancey told her to do a pat down search of Eaddy, and when the two women entered the bathroom Eaddy voluntarily pulled her nightgown up to her shoulders to show Bray she wasn't concealing anything. Yancey testified through deposition because he is currently serving with the United Nations police in Kosovo and did not attend the trial, said defense attorney Michael Rainwater.

During the search officers discovered two tin cans containing marijuana roaches and seeds, along with a smoking bong, in a closet in the bedroom. They also found a metal can containing small plastic baggies with marijuana residue on a dresser. Leggett testified that Eaddy did not know the items were in the house.

Chandler said he believed the jurors were confused on issues and his appeal will request the judgment be reversed in favor of his client.

Chandler said entry into the house was illegal. He said authorities searched the home without warrants so therefore everything that happened after that was done illegally. He said, "If this can happen to Kitty, this can happen to anyone. It's offensive; that is why I took this case," he added.

He said he thought the sheriff's office was wrong and so was Bray. He said officers brought a police dog to Eaddy's residence that was trained to search for drugs. He questioned why the dog wasn't used to sniff out the drugs and further questioned why his client was asked to remove her clothes in the bathroom. "I feel strongly about the violation of the fourth amendment," Chandler concluded.

Rainwater said, "The jury process worked like it was suppose to. I wasn't surprised with their conclusion; I was surprised at how long they deliberated."

He explained this trial was a case where citizens challenged the conduct of the government so the jury was very careful before they made a decision. It was a credibility issue and a burden of proof issue, he said.

Rainwater added, "She (Eaddy) got her day in court. She was represented zealously by her attorney. At the end of the day she didn't sustain her burden of proof; the jury did their job."

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