Sacto 9-1-1
May 24, 2011
Jury renders mixed verdict in Sacramento homeless camping trial

By Cynthia Hubert

A federal jury in Sacramento issued a mixed verdict Tuesday in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of homeless people whose possessions have been seized and destroyed in city police sweeps.

The jury found that the city failed to properly notify homeless people of how they could retrieve property removed from illegal campsites and to implement policies for handling and storing those possessions. But it rejected several other claims, including that the city had a longstanding policy of unreasonably seizing and destroying the tents, sleeping bags, prescription medications, and other personal property of homeless men and women.

The lawsuit did not ask for specific damages, so it was unclear Tuesday to what extent the verdict will affect city policies for responding to complaints about homeless campsites, or to what extent homeless people will be compensated for loss of their property.

"That remains to be determined," said senior chief City Attorney Chance Trimm. "This is new territory. We have to examine the verdict and look at our options."

Mark Merin, who represented the homeless plaintiffs, called the verdict a victory.

"It's absolutely a win," he said. "The jury found that constitutional rights have been violated. Things will have to change, and everyone who lost property must be compensated."

Related coverage:

Sacramento homeless tell jury of losses in police sweeps
Federal court hears from homeless about police seizing their possessions

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