Staff writer Jim Houston of the Columbus, Georgia Ledger-Enquirer reports on a lawsuit brought by a woman who was arrested by her employer after failing a polygraph “test.” Excerpt:
A Phenix City woman whose ex-employer swore out a warrant charging her with theft won a $90,000 verdict Wednesday from a Muscogee County Superior Court jury.
Maria Chavez sued Earl Allen, owner of Coqui Videos, for false arrest after Allen had her arrested June 14, 1999. Allen took out a warrant accusing Chavez of stealing about $6,000 from his business May 28, 1999. Chavez was arrested, booked into the Muscogee County Jail and forced to post bond to regain her freedom.
But a Muscogee County grand jury refused to indict Chavez, and Columbus police testified there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support an arrest, attorney Frank Martin said.
“He took the law into his own hands,” Martin said of Allen’s decision to take out a warrant after police refused to do so.
Martin urged jurors to correct the “miscarriage of justice” and protect Chavez from those who would “run roughshod over little people.”
Defense attorney Clark Adams said Allen confronted Chavez about taking the money from his store and had reason to be suspicious of her. He also said that Columbus detectives told Allen they would not arrest Chavez based on their investigation. But detectives typed the warrant and drove Allen to a judge’s office so he could swear out the warrant, he said.
Adams said he expects Allen to appeal the verdict, primarily based on Judge Frank Jordan’s pretrial ruling that prevented Allen from showing that Chavez had failed a polygraph test.
“This gave him a reasonable basis to suspect her,” Adams said.
Rely on the divinations of polygraph chartgazers at your own risk.