Jury awards $250,000 to US woman jailed without seeing a judge

FILE - This 2012 file photo released by the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office in Mississippi shows Jessica Jauch, who was jailed 96 days without seeing a judge. A Mississippi jury in federal court awarded $250,000 in damages to Jauch, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. In 2012 she was jailed on a drug indictment and eventually cleared after video didn't show her committing a crime. (Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Updated 21 March 2019
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Jury awards $250,000 to US woman jailed without seeing a judge

  • Jessica Jauch jailed 96 days without seeing a judge, a case spotlighting how Mississippi state still struggles to provide access to lawyers
  • After finally seeing a judge, she was appointed a public defender and was eventually cleared of the drug charge

JACKSON, Mississippi: A Mississippi jury awarded $250,000 in damages Tuesday to a woman jailed 96 days without seeing a judge, a case spotlighting how Mississippi still struggles to provide access to lawyers or bail to people jailed before trial.
The verdict included $200,000 in damages against Choctaw County Sheriff Cloyd Halford and $50,000 against the county. It was handed down Tuesday after a two-day trial in federal court in Aberdeen. The jury was only determining how much Jauch was owed, after US District Court Judge Sharion Aycock earlier ruled that the county and Halford were liable.
Jessica Jauch was originally arrested on traffic charges in 2012 and held in Choctaw County after being served with a drug indictment. While in jail, she was forced to temporarily sign over her daughter’s custody rights to her mother. After finally seeing a judge, she was appointed a public defender and quickly made bail. Eventually, she was cleared of the drug charge after undercover video didn’t show her committing any crime.
Daniel Griffith, a lawyer who represented Choctaw County in the trial, said Jauch testified that other women who were arrested would bond out quickly. Jauch’s own lawyer, Israel Fleitas, declined comment. Griffith said Halford and Jauch shook hands while jurors were deliberating Tuesday.
“I can tell you the sheriff is a good man,” Griffith said.
Griffith said the county government’s damages will be paid by insurance. He wasn’t sure if Halford is insured or if he will have to pay his share of the money personally. Jurors awarded the $250,000 as compensatory damages, rejecting additional money for punitive damages.
Halford had argued that he didn’t have to take Jauch before a judge until court met because she’d already been indicted on a felony drug charge, thus establishing probable cause for her detention. The problem was that in Choctaw County, like many rural Mississippi counties, circuit court only meets twice a year, and the next meeting was months away.
The county and Halford also argued the illegal detention was the fault of failures by state court judges. It’s unlikely Jauch would have ever collected money from judges because they’re generally immune from lawsuits.
Aycock originally agreed with the county, dismissing Jauch’s case in 2016. But the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals was sharply critical of Aycock’s ruling, reinstating Jauch’s case in 2017 and calling her detention “unjust and unfair” and “alien to our law.” The full 5th Circuit and the US Supreme Court refused to hear further appeals by the county.
Mississippi has continuing issues with people being arrested before trial and held for months or years with little access to a lawyer or bail. Since Jauch was arrested, the state Supreme Court has enacted new rules of criminal procedure last year that are showing some progress in keeping poor people from being stuck in jail without a lawyer or bail. Those rules say that, among other things, those arrested before being indicted are supposed to appear before a judge within two business days, and anyone arrested after indictment must be arraigned within 30 days.
Griffith, who represents a number of local governments, said those rules are making a difference, along with the publicity surrounding Jauch’s case and others in which governments have been sued for jailing people.
“Nobody wants to be sitting where the sheriff was sitting,” Griffith said.
He said Choctaw County jailers are now sending a list of inmates who need a court appearance to a judge every day. Ultimately, though, Griffith said Mississippi needs a statewide system of public defenders, instead of the part-time defenders who are assigned in most counties. Lawmakers failed to act this year on such a proposal put forward by a task force.


Need to vent some anger? Jordan opens ‘Axe Rage Rooms’

Updated 18 April 2019
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Need to vent some anger? Jordan opens ‘Axe Rage Rooms’

  • People can demolish old items as well as smash plates and glasses — but for the price of $17
  • So-called rage rooms have been opening up around the world

AMMAN: In an underground room in Amman, a small group of Jordanians swing giant hammers at an old television, computer and printer, wrecking the machines, and then hit a car windscreen, shattering the glass into tiny pieces.
In the “Axe Rage Rooms,” people can vent their anger and frustration by demolishing old items as well as smashing plates and glasses.
“This is simply a place to break things and vent,” co-founder and general manager Ala’din Atari said. “A place where people come when they’re looking for a new experience... walking into a room with various items which they can break.”
So-called rage rooms have opened around the world, drawing visitors who want let their hair down and unleash some anger.
At the “Axe Rage Rooms,” where the experience costs $17, participants wearing protective suits and helmets wrote the issues bothering them on a blackboard — “ex-girlfriends,” “boss” and “all boyfriends,” the words becoming the targets of their anger.
Atari said his venue, which has seen about 10 clients a day in the month since it opened, had a space for couples, where the pair enter two rooms separated by a reinforced glass window.
“I wanted to try something new and...it was great,” said Ayla Alqadi, 23, after chucking old kitchenware at the window — behind which stood a friend.
“I felt like I had extra energy, it was a way to channel all the negativity inside, everything you feel inside you can release here.”