A federal jury in Los Angeles on Friday rejected a couple's claim that four Huntington Beach police officers used excessive force, stole an $80,000 diamond and improperly searched the woman during a 1993 car stop.
Lawyers for both sides said the five-day trial ended with the jury finding that the officers had not violated the civil rights of Fountain Valley residents Gary and Laura DeSantis on April 20, 1993, when officers investigating a stolen vehicle report stopped the couple's car in an alley.
The DeSantises alleged that officers arrested Gary DeSantis without cause for interfering with their investigation, and improperly searched Laura DeSantis "in intimate areas," said Neal Moore, the attorney hired by Huntington Beach to represent the officers.
"I talked to the [jury] foreperson and another juror, and they said they just didn't put any credence to the claims," Moore said. "They didn't believe the diamond was taken and . . . no witnesses reported seeing that."
The couple's attorney, however, said his juror interviews indicated only that the evidence was insufficient to prove the allegations, especially when witnesses' recollection was sometimes fuzzy given that five years have passed.
"The jury . . . didn't feel good about giving money without more evidence," said J. Hawkins Low, the couple's trial attorney.
Neither the plaintiffs, now Arizona residents, nor the officers could be reached for comment Friday. Low said the couple were "happy and satisfied that their story could be heard."
Attorney Milton Grimes, who worked with Low on the case, added: "We are disappointed, but I don't think anyone should take this as exoneration of the police officers or their behavior."