A federal jury in Baltimore decided this week that La Plata police officer Harold E. Cunningham Jr. did not use excessive force or commit assault and battery in 2002 when he arrested Mary Louise Green, who was 67 years old at the time.
The weeklong U.S. District Court trial, which ended Monday night, dealt with the first of three civil lawsuits filed against Cunningham and the Town of La Plata.
Even after the jury's verdict, lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant disagreed about the events leading up to the arrest and the extent of Green's injuries.
The suit stemmed from a noise complaint outside the Willing Helpers Hall in La Plata, where a dance for teenagers was being held on Aug. 9, 2002.
The police received a complaint around 11:30 p.m. and Cunningham responded to close down the party.
There had been 37 calls for police service at the building in the eight months preceding the incident, so La Plata police had decided that any more noise complaints would receive citations, said defense lawyer Daniel Karp.
When Cunningham went to the hall and began writing the citation, both sides say, he became involved in an argument with Green, president of the Willing Helpers Society.
Cunningham asked her for identification, but Green said it was in her car, according to Donald Temple, her lawyer.
Cunningham's police report from the time asserts that Green said: "I do not have any identification. I am a full grown adult."
The two sides dispute what happened next.
The defense argued that Cunningham asked Green to state her name and confirm the spelling of her last and first names. But Temple, the plaintiff's lawyer, said Cunningham purposely antagonized his client by asking her to spell her first name, "Mary."
Lawyers for both sides said Green refused to spell her name, saying: "That's your job to figure out."
At that point, Cunningham decided to arrest her.
According to his report, Cunningham tried to handcuff her, but she pulled away and the two spun as Cunningham pulled on Green's left arm.
The police report also says Green hit Cunningham in the face, damaging his glasses, as the two struggled.
Once handcuffs had been placed on Green, she was put into the police car for five minutes while Cunningham conducted crowd control, according to the defense.
Green's lawyer, on the other hand, said the grandmother of four was grabbed violently by the officer and spun against the car.
Cunningham then "forcibly handcuffed her and slammed her in the car," Temple, the lawyer, said.
Lawyers dispute whether Green's arm was injured in the struggle and even disagree about whether she sought or refused medical care at the Charles County Detention Center, where she was taken after her arrest.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour in deciding that Cunningham had not acted inappropriately. Karp said the deliberation was "extremely fast, especially for a case that's lasted a whole week."
The outcome of this case may guide strategy in two other lawsuits.
Barbara Goldring of Hughesville has alleged in one of those suits that Cunningham threw her to the ground at Civista Medical Center in October 2001. However, Karp, Cunningham's lawyer, has maintained that doctors asked Cunningham to restrain the patient for her own safety. No trial date has been set in that case.
In the third case, a woman alleges that she was mistreated by Cunningham during a traffic stop.
After the jury's verdict in the Green case, Temple said the trial had been fair and that his client would not appeal. But Temple, who also represents Goldring, said he would pursue that case and others that may arise.
"We've got to keep trying," he said.