HOUSTON — Jurors deliberating Monday whether Galveston police officers used excessive force at an island resort in 2008 indicated they were deadlocked on several questions included in a 13-page verdict form but had reached agreement on others.

In a note to the court, the jury asked for guidance and indicated it had answered some questions addressing specific instances of the alleged excessive use of force but could not reach a unanimous decision on others.

Those 40 yes-or-no questions, which comprise the first section of the verdict form, catalog the alleged force used against each of the 12 plaintiffs suing the city of Galveston and 10 police officers.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison instructed jurors to try and reach a unanimous verdict on each of the questions in what is referred to as an Allen charge or a “dynamite charge,” urging the jury to continue deliberations to break any possible deadlock.

Ellison’s note also cautioned jurors to use their best judgment and not rush to a decision without due deliberation and to take a “leisurely” pace if that was needed to reach a unanimous verdict.

After returning from a week’s recess, the jury concluded its fifth day of deliberations without delivering a verdict.

The jury has also been tasked with deciding whether the Galveston Police Department had a custom of underreporting and using excessive force.

If jurors find that the 11 members of a wedding party and one other man at The San Luis Resort’s H2O bar in October 2008 were subjected to abuse by Galveston police, the jury will also decide what amount of money, if any, to award to each plaintiff.

Former Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe, who claims a police beating ended his career, is seeking up to $15 million in damages.

An attorney for Backe said his client would not consider an out-of-court settlement if one was offered.

Jurors will resume deliberations today.


At a glance

Defendants in H2O trial

  • The city of Galveston
  • Lt. Joel J. Caldwell
  • Sgt. Andre L. Mitchell
  • Officers Mathew D. Burus, Evelyn S. Dooley, Clemente J. Garcia III, Pheneria Manuell, Nicholas H. McDermott, John Rutherford, Christopher M. Sanderson and Dannie Simpson

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

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