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Man With Cerebral Palsy Sues Over Bogus Drunk Driving Arrest

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A Tennessee man with cerebral palsy is suing after he was accused of drunk driving for exhibiting slurred speech and shakiness, both signs of his disability.

Garry Palmer, 59, was on his way home one night in May 2010 when he accidentally hit a dog with his car. The dog ran off, but when Palmer got out to tell those at a nearby home what happened, the men inside called police to report a drunk driver after observing Palmer’s movements.

The officers who responded did not not believe Palmer when he explained that his cerebral palsy was to blame for trouble with a field sobriety test and they booked him in jail.

Prosecutors filed charges, undeterred even after the Lenoir City, Tenn. man presented a doctor’s note explaining his condition. But soon after urging Palmer to plead guilty, prosecutors backed down.

Now Palmer is suing the local sheriff, the deputies involved and the court clerk, saying that his reputation was damaged as word quickly spread in his small town about the incident. He’s looking for punitive damages and wants new policies in place requiring law enforcement officials to make accommodations for those with disabilities, reports the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel. To read more click here.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. Gardenstone says:

    My question is… if this is such a small town where this kind of gossip gets around, why is it that nobody already knew about this man and his disability?

  2. jnicole says:

    The article only says that the man was on his WAY home, not necessarily that he was in his hometown…Furthermore, I too have Cerebral Palsy. Growing up, I lived in a relatively small town, MOST people either knew me, or knew of me. this does not mean that every single home, in every single neighborhood knew me, or much less likely, of my condition. Certainly not the police, as I never needed to be involved with them on any level.

    The size of his town and “popularity” is your concern? How about the fact that he was humiliatingly treated unjust, and with disrespect even though he provided documentation? What about the ignorance of the public officials? This is not the first time something like this has occurred and unfortunately will not be the last. He is well within his rights to make it a lawsuit. Quite frankly, this may result in fewer instances of this occurring in the future, or at the very least educating local public officials. More power to him.

  3. Gardenstone says:

    jnicole,
    I am complete agreement with you about him being humiliated and treated unjustly and I hope he wins his case and all the officers recieve some kind of retraining. I have been working the field of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities for over 20 years and I have personally seen how people in a neighborhood gossip and investigate anyone different than themselves. I have personally advocated for acceptance & community inclusion of Group Homes, Supervised Apartments, Supportive Living, etc. All I was trying to say was, that I can’t believe that there was not one person who knew him enough to help him out (excluding his brother) during this whole ordeal. I apologize if my previous statement upset you, it was not my intention and I really hope that this is a stepping stone to better training for law enforcement officers.

  4. Stanelle says:

    More power to him!! I had a friend, who had an MA in Psychology,…and a good job in Cleveland, Ohio working with the Sight Center there,..who came to my small Ohio town to work with me as a consultant at a group home that I was running at the time. My friend had the type of cerebral palsy that made her walking gait very unsteady and which also caused her head to be in constant motion. When she came into the group home’s main office,..she was told that she could not proceed into the inner office with me as residents of the group homes were not allowed to go any farther than the waiting room!!

    I stood in shock when this happened and we had to ague for about fifteen minutes with the office associate as to whether my friend with an MA in Psychology degree from Cleveland State University was an educated woman or not, who was to be hired as a consultant by the firm, which employed the high school degree educated secretary!! Luckily,..the person, who had called my friend to work as a consultant,..came along and vouched for my friend with the MA in Psychology!!

    Two things struck me about this incident:

    1. The secretary was NOT repriminded for her insult to my friend with the CP.

    2. This discrimination was solely based on my friend CP related movements and their effect on her appearance.

    My friend turned down the job in favor of working with a company whic did private tutoring.

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