On Thursday a North Mississippi Federal Court jury in the Delta Division rendered a total verdict of $771,000 in a retaliatory discharge trial against DeSoto County and jail administrator Steve Atkinson.

The plaintiffs were former jailers Tammy Williams, Cheryl Hambrick and Earl Russell. The plaintiffs alleged that they were fired for reporting Sgt. Stephen Winters for assaulting an inmate in the jail. Here is the Third Amended Complaint. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs were fired for other reasons.

The firings happened in 2004. Plaintiffs filed suit in 2005. The case was twice appealed to the 5th Circuit and there was a trial with a hung jury in March 2011.

The jury found for all three plaintiffs against both defendants. Here is the jury’s verdict. The jury awarded the following damages:

  • $182,000 actual damages to Tammy Willliams
  • $215,000 actual damages to Cheryl Hambrick
  • $174,000 actual damages to Earl Russell
  • $50,000 punitive damages to Tammy Williams
  • $50,000 punitive damages to Earl Russell
  • $50,000 punitive damages to Cheryl Hambrick

Jim Waide and Rachel Pierce of Waide and Associates and Shane McLaughlin (all of Tupelo) represented the plaintiffs. It appears that Steven Lacey from Barfield & Associates in Madison was the lead defense counsel. 

District Judge Allen Pepper presided in the case.