Editor’s note: The civil trial pitting Theresa Farmer against Floyd County touches on topics and language that some readers will find offensive.
WAVERLY — Jurors deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours today without reaching a conclusion in Theresa Farmer’s lawsuit against Floyd County. They are scheduled to resume deliberating at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Bremer County Courthouse.
Six men and two women will decide whether Farmer suffered sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination while working for and then being fired by the former county attorney, Jesse Marzen. A ninth juror, a man, was identified as an alternate and dismissed.
Marzen is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
According to Judge Chris Foy, jurors must reach a unanimous decision if they reach a conclusion within six hours. After that time, only seven of the jurors must agree.
When the group does reach a conclusion, it will deliver a sealed verdict to Foy. He will read it and pass the information along to attorneys representing Farmer and Floyd County. Barring errors, the verdict will then be revealed publicly.
Foy complimented those involved on a “well-tried” trial.
“The issues, the stakes involved in this case are pretty high,” Foy said.
Jurors listened to their instructions, heard closing arguments and accepted the case shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday. They conferred until 4:30 p.m. but apparently did not reach a consensus.
The civil trial began July 16 will enter its 12th day Wednesday.
During her closing arguments, Brooke Timmer, one of Farmer’s attorneys, recounted again for jurors many of Marzen’s alleged transgressions while in office. Those included profane language, unwanted touching and a demeaning attitude toward employees, especially women.
Timmer reminded jurors of what witnesses alleged was one of Marzen’s favored expressions for women: the C-word.
“It has been described as one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine ability to shock,” Timmer told the jury.
“No woman should be reduced to a dirty word for her genitals — especially at work,” she added.
Timmer also provided “guidance” on the topic of compensation should jurors find Farmer did suffer sexual harassment, lost her job because of it and suffered damages. Just for the sexual harassment, Timmer suggested $1 million would be a reasonable amount.
The goal, she added, “is not to punish Floyd County but to pay Theresa Farmer back for everything they took from her.”
Several hundred thousand dollars more could be linked to the “bogus” termination, Timmer said.
“Money is the measure of the harm to Theresa Farmer,” Timmer added later.
When the county’s attorney, Beth Hansen, got her turn, she described a possible $1.4 million to $1.5 million payment to Farmer as “a corrupting” influence in the case. The amount suggested by Farmer’s attorneys “should set her up for life at age 50,” Hansen added.
“We are not telling you the discharge of Theresa Farmer was fair. What we are telling you is the discharge was not unlawful,” Hansen said.
Hansen also reminded jurors that Farmer rejected an unconditional offer to return to the Floyd County Attorney’s Office. Had she accepted her old job, Farmer’s losses in wages and medical expenses would have been closer to about $27,000, according to Hansen.
“The time Jesse Marzen spent in the Floyd County Attorney’s Office was difficult for many people,” ranging from his employees and the Board of Supervisors to judges and criminal defendants, she said.
“It was a difficult and troubled time in Floyd County,” she added.
Farmer’s job was complex and stressful. But the situation also represented “an opportunity for Theresa Farmer to profit,” Hansen told jurors.
- Dennis Magee is regional editor for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, another Lee Enterprises newspaper.