“Panel overturns $2M wrongful arrest award for mom”

First, I saw this, in the New York Law Journal:

Deeply Divided Panel Orders New Trial in False Arrest Case

Ben Bedell, New York Law Journal  

A First Department panel vacated a Bronx jury’s $2 million verdict for false arrest and malicious prosecution and ordered a new trial for a woman who had been charged with criminally negligent homicide when her 5 1/2-week old breast-fed infant died of malnutrition.

But the better and fuller story was told today by Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News. He begins this awful tale:

An appellate court panel Tuesday narrowly overturned a $2 million lower court award for a woman who sued for wrongful arrest 16 years ago, after police charged her with starving her infant daughter to death.

In dueling opinions marked by sharp rebukes from both sides, the appellate panel voted 3-2 for a retrial of the civil case, thus forcing the woman, Tatiana Cheeks, to possibly relive her tragic ordeal once again.

Back in 1998, in a case that stunned the city, a medical examiner ruled that Cheeks’ 5-week-old infant, Cha-Nell Coppage, had died of malnutrition.

Police promptly arrested the mother, who was then 21, for second-degree murder. At her arraignment, prosecutors reduced the charge to criminally negligent homicide, and the city immediately placed Cheeks’ only other child in foster care.

Those actions prompted an outcry from women’s health-care advocates.

They argued Cheeks was a poor, uneducated woman who had tried to breast feed her baby as best as she could.

But the health-care system had failed her when she was turned away from a clinic appointment a week after she gave birth because her baby didn’t yet have a Medicaid card and she couldn’t afford the $25 clinic fee.

At first I was going to post this as a warning to all plaintiffs about big jury verdicts and how they can be reduced by appellate courts. But that is not really what this story is about, is it? And if you read further, you’ll see that the appellate panel that came up with this decision was sharply, even angrily, divided.

Here’s the entire piece: Gonzalez: Panel overturns $2M wrongful arrest award for mom – NY Daily News.

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