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The Franklin News-Post
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
By K.A. WAGONER – Staff Writer
A Rocky Mount woman will spend seven months in jail for assaulting a police officer and a social worker last December.
Jolene Marie Harris, 28, was sentenced to four years, with all but the seven months suspended, for kicking a Rocky Mount police officer in the groin and throwing a bottle of juice at a social worker.
Harris was also sentenced to three years probation and ordered to be of good behavior for six years.
Harris was found guilty of the assault charges in August after the judge rejected defense claims that she was “involuntarily intoxicated.”
Defense attorney Larry Gott attempted to convince Franklin County Circuit Court Judge W.N. Alexander II that Harris was intoxicated after taking several new prescription medications on Dec. 10, 2010, in addition to an antidepressant (Paxil) she had taken that morning.
“The combination of prescription medications caused a toxic reaction and rendered her unable to understand the consequences of her actions,” Gott said during the trial.
Harris testified that she had taken 40 mg of Paxil and Dexatrim Max the morning of Dec. 10. Later that afternoon, she filled several prescriptions for Imitrex (migraine headaches), Benedryl (antihistamine), Buspar (anti-anxiety) and Phenergan (anti-nausea) and took those medications around 1 p.m.
Harris denied that she had taken any illegal drugs or consumed alcohol on that day. She said she had no memory of the events that led to the assault charges.
However, two social workers and the police officer testified that Harris smelled of alcohol (beer) during the two altercations on Dec. 10.
The initial incident occurred when Harris visited with her three children at the social services office on East Court Street at 3:30 p.m., according to Jessica Dowdy with the Franklin County Department of Social Services.
Harris had tested positive for marijuana and cocaine a week earlier, Dowdy said.
While observing the visit, Dowdy said Harris became angry at one of the children, so she asked Harris to leave the room with her. When Harris returned to the visitation room, she fell off the couch while holding one of her children in her arms. That is when Dowdy’s supervisor ended the visitation.
Harris became angry and started shouting and yelling, according to the supervisor’s testimony. When leaving the office, Harris threw a bottle of juice at the supervisor.
The officer responded to a call from DSS and found Harris walking along Orchard Avenue, according to his testimony. She was unstable on her feet, and her eyes were bloodshot.
When the officer attempted to arrest Harris, she screamed that she was not going to jail and kicked him twice in the groin, he said.
The judge watched video of the altercation taped by a camera in the patrol car.
During the trial, Dr. Lucas Van Orden of Nashville, Tenn., a psychiatrist and former professor of pharmacology, testified that the combination of the drugs Harris had taken caused an adverse reaction. He said stimulants cause an overreaction to stimuli and the depressants interfere with rational function.
But during cross examination by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Nix, Van Orden said alcohol consumption would produce the same effects that were consistent with Harris’s behavior.
Alexander said it was clear that Harris had been drinking, based on the evidence, and she was not taking the medications as instructed on the prescription labels. The judge also said it was clear from the video that she was aware of her actions.