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Editor’s note: The jury in this case was deadlocked at 10-2 in favor of the plaintiff, leading Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis to declare a mistrial in the case Tuesday, Aug. 3.
BOLIVIA—After seven days of testimony in the wrongful termination and gender discrimination trial against the town of Holden Beach, the town’s fate and that of the plaintiff, former Holden Beach police officer Terri Oxford, were placed in the hands of the jurors.
Closing arguments in the trial, which had been under way since Monday, July 19, concluded Thursday, July 29, in Brunswick County Superior Court.
Oxford, who began working for the police department in 1999, sued the town of Holden Beach after she was fired in 2008.
The jury began deliberating the case—whether Holden Beach Police Chief Wally Layne fired Oxford because she is a woman—around 4 p.m. Thursday, July 29.
“When you look at all of the evidence in this case and you look at the credibility of the witnesses, you can’t get away from gender, you can’t get away from the fact she was treated differently,” Oxford’s attorney Robert Lane III argued.
“[Detective] Jayne Todd said it very well, ‘It’s a shame when you have to go home every day wishing you were a man,’” Lane said.
Lane said Oxford was a great police officer, “and but for their actions and discriminating against her because of her gender, she could still be doing that.”
But Holden Beach attorney Norwood Blanchard said the reason Oxford was terminated was because of insubordination.
“What did she get fired for? That termination letter sets it out. She was out trying to get a DCI report run on her boss,” Blanchard said.
To find in favor of Oxford, Blanchard said jurors would have to “disbelieve Mac Warner, Gerald Watkins and her own deposition. Her story does change all the time. And I’ll submit to you that she’s had some problems keeping her story straight about that.”
In his closing arguments, Blanchard addressed claims that Layne showed up to a cardiac arrest intoxicated, which Layne denied during his testimony.
“Wally being drunk does not prove gender discrimination,” Blanchard said.
“As you might imagine, we have a very different view of the facts. I’d submit to you it’s just a fairy tale,” Blanchard said of the plaintiff’s case.
“Fairy tale or a nightmare? That’s the issue,” Oxford’s attorney James Hairston Jr. said.
“We are not talking about a fairy tale. This is her life. This lady went to Basic Law Enforcement Training to be a police officer,” Hairston said.
“He did a beautiful job when his counsel asked him questions,” Hairston said, saying Layne was “good enough to sell an African some heat.”
But Hairston said Layne’s own testimony revealed discrimination against Oxford.
“If it’s walking like a duck and talking like a duck, it’s a duck.”
Hairston said Layne discriminated against Oxford, “Because she’s bringing the pink to the blue line. She’s not one of the boys. She’s not conforming to what we need her to conform to. She is actually a real cop with a conscience.”
“Fairy tale or nightmare? You know what, if this is not a gender discrimination case, then they do not exist,” Hairston said.
Hairston said Oxford cannot get a job in law enforcement because of the pending lawsuit.
“Nobody wants to touch her. She can’t work as a cop. She was on her second career, happy as a fly on dung, until Wally Layne came in and jacked it all up.”
Hairston told jurors, if they found in favor of Oxford, they should award her damages for lost wages, as well as pain and suffering and humiliation she was subjected to.