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A Santa Clara, Calif., Superior Court judge has thrown out a $945,000 verdict against the city of San Jose after concluding that the jury was more interested in “sending a message” in a sexual orientation bias suit than in weighing evidence. Judge William Martin’s order, issued Friday, is a welcome victory for the San Jose city attorney’s office, which in the last six months has been hammered by two juries in employment discrimination and harassment suits. In granting the city’s motion for a new trial, Martin found the verdict wasn’t supported by the evidence and that the nearly $1 million awarded in damages constituted punitive damages, which are not recoverable against government entities. “The jury’s verdict was designed to ‘send a message’ to the defendants rather than merely compensate the plaintiff,” Martin wrote. San Jose City Attorney Richard Doyle said Martin’s decision was correct because the jury was trying to punish the city rather than compensate the plaintiff, former San Jose police officer Dawn Goodman. “I am a true believer in the jury system, but there are times when a jury goes astray,” Doyle said. “Part of the judge’s role is to make sure that when it happens, it can be corrected. That’s what Judge Martin did here.” Sylvia Velez, Goodman’s Sacramento-based attorney, did not return calls Tuesday. In August, a Santa Clara jury awarded the former cop $945,000. Goodman, who is a lesbian, contended she was wrongfully disciplined and fired after telling supervisors she was reluctant to perform strip searches on women prisoners. In his order, Martin described Goodman’s evidence as “conjecture and speculation.” In essence, he wrote, “Plaintiff’s evidence and argument in this regard are: Plaintiff is a lesbian; adverse actions were taken against plaintiff in the course of her employment; these actions therefore occurred because she is a lesbian. Plaintiff’s post hoc, proper hoc thesis infects her view of the world and of the evidence on most every issue.” The trial that ended in August was Goodman’s second. Her first trial, in Judge Robert Foley’s court, ended in mistrial. Doyle said the jury verdicts against the city don’t point to a larger problem, and said the city had won a defense verdict in another discrimination suit this year. “I think those are cases that cause concern. I don’t think it’s a trend. We’ve had mixed success,” Doyle said. In April, a federal court jury awarded former city attorney investigator Carl Simpson $110,500 in damages. His attorneys at McManis Faulkner & Morgan were later awarded $425,000 in fees. Simpson, who is black, accused San Jose police and park rangers of illegally searching his van and insinuating that he was abusing his two daughters. That case is now on appeal at the 9th Circuit.

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