Jury verdict thrown out over lack of vetting for homophobia

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The verdict returned by a jury in Florida has been thrown out after they weren’t tested for homophobia.

A verdict was given clearing police of misconduct charges after it was found that the jury could be biased against the plaintiff who is gay.

Raymond Berthiaume had accused police lieutenant David Smith of the Key West Police Department of framing him for battery.

He alleged that the department had forced his friend to make a false statement back in 2013.

The jury cleared Smith of wrongdoing in the case, but the decision was tossed out.

(Flickr/Brian Turner)
(Flickr/Brian Turner)

According to the Miami Herald, the district court in the case had “refused” to ask jurors questions about sexual orientation bias.

A second trial will now take place.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision stating: “The district court here asked the jurors multiple questions about any biases or prejudices they might have against law enforcement.

“But the district court refused to ask any questions at all about prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation. Therefore, we have no way to discern whether the jury was biased against the plaintiff for that reason.”

The incident on which the accusations were based took place in 2013.

Berthiaume, wearing flip-flops and a loincloth, left Fantasy Fest 2013 with a group of friends.

After a disagreement over whether to stay out later, a friend, Berthiaume’s then partner, had stolen the car keys to stop them from driving home.

Berthiaume had struck a street sign in frustration, and Smith had knocked him to the ground, arresting him for domestic battery.

Despite never being charged, Berthiaume filed a lawsuit against now-retired Smith, saying he had attempted to get one of his friends to lie about the incident.

Berthiaume asked for $15,000 in compensation for surgeries he says were necessary to repair damage done when he was knocked to the ground.

The jury had issued a decision against Berthiaume in 2016, but the verdict has now been revoked.

“Berthiaume noted that homosexuals had only recently begun to gain acceptance in society, and many people still harbor bias or prejudice against homosexuals,” adds the ruling.

“Accordingly, Berthiaume contended that in a case such as his, involving both a gay party and gay witnesses, it is necessary for courts to inquire into prospective jurors’ potential biases against homosexuals to ensure a fair trial.”