Appeals court rules in favor of fired chemist

Thursday, June 26th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A former police chemist has won another federal court ruling in her wrongful termination lawsuit.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that the Oklahoma City Police Review Board, which recommended Joyce Gilchrist's firing, isn't presently immune from her lawsuit.

The ruling also applies to City Manager Jim Couch, who approved Gilchrist's firing. Couch and the five members of the review board had asked the Denver-based appeals court to overturn a lower court's decision that denied them immunity.

``Although we make no comment on the ultimate merit of Gilchrist's case, (these) defendants have not shown entitlement to absolute or qualified immunity at this point in the litigation,'' the appellate judges wrote in a 13-page decision.

Gilchrist is seeking damages for her 2001 dismissal, which came after she was accused of giving false or misleading testimony in major criminal cases, including death penalty cases.

The appellate judges agreed with U.S. District Judge David Russell in Oklahoma City that board members and Couch haven't sufficiently shown they meet the legal standard for immunity.

``My clients are obviously disappointed, but we are going to carry on the fight,'' Assistant Municipal Counselor Richard Smith said.

Smith said he believes the review board's report, when he presents it to Russell, ``will prove that the board members reasonably believed Judge (Ralph) Thompson's determination that Ms. Gilchrist's testimony was false or misleading (in a key death penalty case).''

Thompson's 1999 ruling that Gilchrist's testimony was false or misleading paved the way for her firing.