Jury rules Duke discriminated against female kicker

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Duke University discriminated against a female placekicker who failed to earn a spot on the football team, a federal jury ruled Thursday.

Jurors deliberated just more than two hours before finding in favor of Heather Sue Mercer, who graduated from Duke in 1998.

There was no reaction from Mercer, her attorneys or her family when the verdict was read.

The jury next will decide if she should receive compensatory and/or punitive damages.

To award compensatory damages, jurors must find that Mercer suffered actual financial losses because of Duke's actions. For punitive damages, they must find the defendants acted with malice and reckless indifference.

``Any award you make must be just and fair,'' Judge James Beaty said.

Shortly after they began deliberating, jurors asked to see videotapes of Mercer and other kickers practicing. They also reviewed the transcript of a conversation between Mercer and assistant football coach Fred Chatham that Mercer taped secretly.

They later sought from Beaty a definition of the phrase ``deliberate indifference,'' meaning whether Duke officials knew Mercer was having problems and did nothing to correct them.