Jury decides deputies were not overly forceful in woman's arrest

Christina Stueve Hodges Sep. 17, 2012, 11:39am



A Madison County jury ruled in favor of Madison County Sheriff's deputies Jeremy Stumpf and Stewart Stiverson after a six-day trial in Circuit Judge David Hylla's court.

Stumpf and Stiverson were on trial for allegedly using excessive force when they arrested a young woman on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2006.

"This clearly was a determination by Madison County citizens that deputies Stumpf and Stiverson acted appropriately," defense attorney John Gilbert said. "The jury has spoken, and we respect their decision, and obviously they didn't think it was excessive force."

Plaintiff's attorney Gregory Fenlon requested the jury award his client Kelsi Baker $1.2 million in damages during closing arguments Monday for injuries she sustained from the deputies' use of a taser.

Baker, then 20-years-old, was discovered Feb. 6, 2006 in Alton resident Maurice File's driveway. File called the sheriff's department when he heard loud music coming from an unknown vehicle in his driveway.

Deputies arrived at 2832 Harris Lane in Alton at 1:35 a.m.

When Stumpf opened the passenger door of Baker's 2004 Oldsmobile Alero, he found her inside and smelled a "wall of alcohol," Gilbert said.

Stumpf removed Baker from her car, tasered Baker, who was kicking, screaming and yelling, according to Gilbert.

Stumpf acted reasonably, according to Gilbert.

"She (Baker) could have really hurt herself," Gilbert said. "He was using his common sense, based on what he knew.

"No one knows what's going on in her mind. I don't think she even does, because she's so drunk. She was so drunk that the evidence shows she can't reliably testify about anything."

People who see events often have different versions of the same event, Gilbert said.

Fenlon had another story.

On the night prior to her arrest, Baker, a chef, worked until 11 p.m. at Charlie Gitto's in Maryland Heights, then met a friend for drinks at a restaurant in Godfrey from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Fenlon described Baker as a young lady from a small town in Illinois who couldn't stand up on her own.

Deputies should have given Baker time to "wake up and appreciate the situation," according to Fenlon.

"Instead they're in a huge hurry," he said, because the worst thing she could have done was to crawl into a cornfield. Baker was confused. She didn't recognize the police officer and didn't want to get inside the police car.

"Are you going to say it's OK for them to open the door and taser her? I don't think any reasonable police officer would do this.

"Not only did he reach in and taser her more than once. He reached in and tasered her at the most painful nerve in her body."

Baker went to the emergency room doctor the next day, who found 10 separate taser marks.

She later went to the police station to find out what happened. She saw the marks on her body and knew where they were from, according to Fenlon.

The event on the night of Feb. 6 affected her adversely, Fenlon explained.

"She has scars on her back, neck, legs. She has nightmares. She breaks up in a cold sweat. Her heart races. She has anxiety attacks. These are loss of enjoyment of normal life. She has a major depression."

The incident also affected how Baker deals with her kids, he said.

"Before Feb. 6, she respected police officers," Fenlon said.

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