(BAY MINETTE, Ala.) April 28 -- Take a look at the picture of the woman which is attached to this story. Does she look like a big time drug dealer to you?
Apparently, local law enforcement officers thought she did.
Despite medical proof she couldn't walk, officers used a videotape of a woman walking into a drug deal as evidence against Jeanette Garrett to keep the charge alive for a year and a half. It turns out, it was a case of mistaken identity, and eventually all charges were dropped.
In this special assignment report, NBC15's Leon Petite tells us why this woman is still praying for justice.
“I prayed and prayed and prayed." Jeanette Garrett prays everyday. She thanks God for her children and grandchildren. She's described simply as a good woman. But four years ago this good woman was accused of being something far worse.
Wheelchair bound and speech impaired after a stroke in 2004, Garrett was a prime target for law officers who believed her to be one of Baldwin County's worst drug dealers. The authorities were determined to bring her down.
The Baldwin County Drug Task Force organized a sting operation and shot videotape in Daphne of a woman who was walking to and from a mobile home to pick up drugs. They insisted the woman in the videotape was Jeanette Garrett. It could be one of the worst cases of mistaken identity in Baldwin County history.
“I was surprised to hear her story I didn't understand how something like this could happen.” It all seemed so absurd to Attorney Jim Curenton. How could this woman who couldn't even leave her wheelchair because of a stroke, be the woman in the videotape?
It was something that should have been cleared up in a matter on minutes, but it was a year and half before the charges were finally dropped. “I had to go up to that courthouse over and over. It just took a toll on me,” says Garrett, who was charged with trafficking and held in the Baldwin County Jail until making bond.
Half-dozen trips to the Courthouse didn't clear her name and eventually she suffered another stroke. Garrett's attorney says the pressure of proving her innocence became too much. “The prosecution went on nearly 18 months before someone recognized Ms. Garrett could not be the person in the video.”
Today, Jeanette Garrett is still seeking justice. She has filed a lawsuit in U. S. District court seeking damages for lost social security benefits. She's also seeking punitive damages. “I kept going on and on and on. I felt like someone had put something on me. I felt humiliated.”
Jeanette Garrett's family says no amount of money can buy back what she's suffered as she has tried to clear her name. Just knowing she is considered a good woman is the only satisfaction she may ever get.
The lawsuit Garrett has filed names each individual law enforcement officer and not the Baldwin County Sheriff's department. Garrett's arrest occurred under the administration of the previous sheriff. Current Sheriff Hoss Mack, Jr. says his office is investigating the case.
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