A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday awarded $121,000 to the widow and surviving daughter of Lawrence C. Jackson, who died last January from injuries to his kidneys that he suffered three years ago when he was arrested and severely beaten by D.C. police officers.
In a two-year-old sworn statement introduced at the trial this week, Jackson had said that four police officers arrested and handcuffed him, then "kicked, beat and choked" him on Sept. 20, 1977, in an effort to force Jackson to help police locate Kenneth Bryant, a friend of Jackson's who was wanted for armed robbery.
Jackson had undergone a kidney transplant operation before the beating, but had to have a second transplant operation after his body rejected the transplanted kidney injured in the beating. At the time of his death Jan. 2, Jackson was facing still another kidney transplant operation.
Jackson was 23 at the time of the beating incident and was charged with obstruction of justice, a charge that later was dropped by prosecutors.
"My husband didn't want to go into the hospital last November for another kidney transplant," said his widow, Doris Jackson. "The doctor had told him he needed to have his kidney replaced, but [my husband] said that he wanted to be around for my birthday and my daughter Lavetta's birthday in December, for Thanksgiving, for Christmas and New Year's before he went to the hospital. He had missed all of the holidays the year before because he was in the hospital with his kidney problem."
Jackson said her husband was in constant pain during the weeks before his death. "He was in and out of the hospital every two or three weeks," she said. "His body was beginning to swell, especially his ankles, but he wanted to be at home with us."
Jackson said she was happy to win the case, but disappointed that the jury did not award her more. One of her lawyers, Irwin G. Meiselman, declined to say how much he and another lawyer, Samuel M. Shapiro, will be paid to represent Mrs. Jackson, but typically civil lawyers are paid one-third of the total award.
The largest judgment in recent cases charging police brutality here was made last March 4 when another jury awarded $289,000 to the widow of a southeast man who was fatally shot by police who had tried to charge him with riding an unregistered bicycle.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Patrick Kavanaugh who argued the case for the city, said his office had not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict. Under District of Columbia law, the city, not the four policemen, would have to pay the damages.
The four policemen involved in the incident were Officers Michael Will, David Israel, Alphonso Terrell and Robert Merillo. Kavanaugh said no formal complaint was ever filed against the officers before the initiation of the suit, and that consequently there was no official police department investigation of the incident.
On the day he was beaten, Jackson said he had visited Janet P. Lewis in Southeast Washington to ask if she had seen the fugitive Bryant, a mutual friend. Jackson said in his sworn statement that Lewis said she had not seen Bryant. But during his visit, Lewis asked Jackson to run an errand for her and take her two children with him.
Jackson said he was arrested when he returned to the house in the 3600 block of Horner Place SE, where police began questioning him about the location of Bryant and then beating him after they handcuffed him.
"The . . . officers were still beating and kicking me when I heard Ms. Lewis hollering and crying that I had one kidney," Jackson said in his statement. "One of the detectives told Ms. Lewis that if she didn't get back, he would do something to her. That is when they picked me up and pulled me halfway down the stairs . . ."
Will, Israel and Terrell testified at the trial that they went to Lewis' home following reports that Bryant was living at her address. When they talked with Lewis, she told them that Bryant had left the apartment earlier with her two children and would return shortly, they testified.
When they later saw a man coming towards Lewis' house with two children they approached him and asked him to identify himself. The man told police he was Jackson, not Kenneth Bryant, and that the children had stayed with him all night.
In talking with Lewis a second time, the officers testified, they were told that Bryant had been in hiding just outside the house when they first interviewed Jackson, and that Jackson knew it.
Based on Lewis' second statement, police said they charged Jackson with obstruction of justice. Police said they were forced to subdue Jackson after he began swinging his fists at officers who were attempting to handcuff him.
Expert witnesses testifying for the city said that they believed Jackson's kidney problems were growing progressively worse and that he would have eventually died as a result of kidney failure.