- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - An appeals court has affirmed a nearly $1 million racial discrimination award to a former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation psychologist.

The ruling Thursday by the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento upheld a 2011 decision by a Sacramento County jury to award $945,480 in damages to Terralyn Renfro.

Jurors found that race was a motivating factor in the firing of Renfro, a contract employee at Mule Creek State Prison, 40 miles southeast of Sacramento. Renfro, who is black, was fired in 2007.

The appeals court said it agreed with the trial judge and the department that, “the evidence of racial bias in this case is thin. There is no direct evidence of racial slurs, jokes, slights, or remarks.”

Nonetheless, the appeals court said in its 16-page decision that jurors may have believed Renfro’s account of her treatment in part because of a pattern of lies by other department employees.

“There is no question that some of the department’s witnesses lied at trial by contradicting each other on key facts,” the court found. It added later that, “If those who were, or should have been, most intimately involved in the decision to fire plaintiff obfuscated their roles and told inconsistent stories, the jury could reasonably infer that their motives were not what they claimed and the testimony they provided was incredible.”

The department argued unsuccessfully that Renfro was fired for insubordination and violating prison protocol, not because she is black.

“We disagree with the verdict and we’re exploring our options,” Corrections spokesman Bill Sessa said Friday, declining further comment.

Renfro, of Fairfield, had worked in several prisons since 2000 but was blocked from getting another prison job after her firing, said her attorney, Mary-Alice Coleman of Davis. She now is in private practice.

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