Judge tosses $3.25M award against San Jose (but upheld ruling against police for seizing kids)
Henry K. Lee, SF Chronicle
San Jose police acted recklessly when they placed a family's three children into protective custody despite any evidence they were being abused, but a jury's $3.25 million damage award against the city was excessive, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose said the jury's award in April was "excessive to the extreme" and blamed faulty instructions he gave to members of the panel. Whyte ordered a new trial on whether damages should be awarded to the children's parents, Tracy Watson and Renee Stalker.
But Whyte declined to toss out the verdict altogether in his ruling Wednesday, saying evidence at the trial showed that police "took the children in reckless disregard of plaintiffs' rights and misused and abused their authority."
The case stems from an incident in 2005, when police entered the family's home without a warrant and seized two of their three children, a 4-year-old autistic boy and a 2-year-old boy.