A federal jury has awarded $120,000 in damages to a couple who sued the city of Tupelo for altering private property without permission. Bill and Linda Kinard were trying to develop 15 acres in east Tupelo into the Elvis Presley Heights Cemetery.
Bill Kinard testified that while he was away from the property in March 2004, city workers dug a trench across it, in the area to be used for the cemetery. The workers were trying to eliminate an erosion problem, said city attorney Guy Mitchell III. "They failed to get permission to go on the property," he said. "The city admitted they made a mistake. They've been trying to settle the case." The property is off East Main, near East Heights Baptist Church.
He said the Kinards would not accept less than $3 million to settle, and Mitchell called the jury award this week "more in line with the actual damage to the property." District Judge Mike Mills told the jury that the city violated the Constitution by entering the Kinards' property without their permission or a judge's order.
The jury awarded $60,000 for property damage and $30,000 each to the Kinards for psychological damage, he said. Mitchell said he did not know if the city would appeal the case, but "there may be some post-trial motions."
Attorney Jim Waide, who with Shane McLaughlin represented the Kinards, said, "Mr. Kinard still believes his business venture can be a success. He hopes the city will now work with him in developing this project, which will beautify Elvis Presley Heights and attract tourists to Tupelo."
Waide said the Kinards "felt good for the first time since this happened."