— Posts About Wrongful Incaceration

Recent Wrongful Conviction Settlements Total Over $12,000,000

Patterson Harkavy attorneys Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh, with co-counsel Spencer Parris and Chris Olson, recently obtained settlements totaling more than $12,000,000 for two men who were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

In 1992, Greg Taylor was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  After Taylor served 17 years in prison, his lawyers found SBI lab notes contradicting the official SBI lab report that blood linked Taylor to the victim.  Presented with the new evidence in 2009, the North Carolina Innocence Commission exonerated Taylor and ordered his release.

Representing Greg Taylor, Burton and Narendra filed a civil rights suit against Duane Deaver, who wrote the misleading lab report in Taylor’s case, and four other SBI officials. The Defendants were represented by seven lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office.  The litigation confirmed that the SBI had a long-standing practice of producing reports that omitted the negative results of confirmatory serology testing.  The failure to disclose this exculpatory evidence violated Taylor’s constitutional rights and resulted in his conviction. After three years of litigation, the case settled in September 2013 for $4,625,000.

For more information about the case, see the complaint, Burton Craige’s presentation at mediation, and newspaper coverage of the settlement.

In 1989 Dwayne Dail, age 20, was convicted of the rape of a 12-year old girl in Goldsboro, and sentenced to life imprisonment.  The conviction was based on the victim’s misidentification of the rapist.  DNA testing became available in the mid-1990s.  In 1995, Dail’s family members raised the necessary funds and requested that the crime scene evidence be subjected to DNA testing. The City Attorney and the Goldsboro Police Department (GPD) told them – inaccurately — that all the evidence had been destroyed.  On multiple occasions over the next 12 years, family members and staff from the North Carolina Center for Actual Innocence (NCCAI) repeated the request for the evidence.  Each time they were told that all the evidence had been destroyed.  In 2007, Chris Mumma and Sharon Stellato from NCCAI made one final request to the GPD.  An employee found an envelope containing evidence from the case, including the victim’s nightgown.  DNA testing of semen on the nightgown matched William Neal, currently in prison for other crimes.  Dail was exonerated and released after 18 years in prison.

Representing Dwayne Dail, Burton and Narendra filed suit against the City of Goldsboro, including claims for civil rights violations, negligence and obstruction of justice. The case presented complex, novel issues of constitutional law, reflected in Judge Terence Boyle’s order denying the City’s motion to dismiss.  After extensive discovery, Judge Boyle ruled that Dail had produced evidence sufficient to support his claims.  After three years of litigation, including three mediated settlement conferences, the case settled in November 2013 for $7,520,000.  For more information about the case, see the complaint, Burton Craige’s presentation at mediation, and news coverage of the settlement.

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Civil Rights Complaint Filed on Behalf of Greg Taylor

A civil rights complaint has been filed in federal court on behalf of Plaintiff Gregory Flynt Taylor against Peter Duane Deaver and other former employees of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation seeking damages for his wrongful incarceration.  The complaint may be viewed here.

In April 1993, Mr. Taylor was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a murder two years earlier which he did not commit.  The Defendants worked in the SBI Crime Lab and wrote a deliberately misleading report about evidence collected from the crime scene.  Because this report misrepresented the facts and the findings of the laboratory tests, Mr. Taylor was convicted of a crime he did not commit and spent the next 17 years in prison.  On February 17, 2011 a three-judge panel unanimously found that Mr. Taylor was innocent of the charge of murder and ordered his immediate release.  Mr. Taylor was given a full Pardon of Innocence by Governor Beverly Perdue on May 21, 2010.

Mr. Taylor’s complaint brings claims under the federal constitution, North Carolina Constitution, and North Carolina common law.  Mr. Taylor is represented by Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh, as well as Spencer Parris and Christopher Olson at Martin & Jones.

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Briefs Filed in Dail v. City of Goldsboro

The following briefs opposing defendants’ motion to dismiss have recently been filed in Dail, v. City of Goldsboro, et al.: Plaintiff’s First Response Brief and Plaintiff’s Second Response Brief.  Mr. Dail was convicted of a crime he did not commit and subsequently imprisoned for 18 years.  He was exonerated in 2007 when DNA evidence proved his innocence.  This evidence – which was later recovered – had been improperly handled and allegedly destroyed in 1995 by the City of Goldsboro.  The case is now before Judge Boyle in federal court (EDNC). Mr. Dail is represented by Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh of Patterson Harkavy, as well as Spencer Parris and Christopher Olson at Martin & Jones.  More on the case can be found here.  This a summary of Plaintiff’s argument:

Dail has properly stated cognizable claims for relief arising from his wrongful incarceration. Dail has stated a valid claim for municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978), because Defendants had a policy or practice of failing to properly inventory and safeguard evidence, including the evidence that ultimately exonerated Dail. Defendants’ unconstitutional conduct arbitrarily denied Dail’s liberty interest and resulted in his continued wrongful incarceration. Unlike the plaintiff in District Attorney’s Office for Third Judicial District v. Osborne, 129 S. Ct. 2308 (2009), the principal case upon which Defendants rely, Dail has not impermissibly used § 1983 to seek access to potential evidence, but instead properly invokes § 1983 to redress Defendants’ unconstitutional failure to reasonably maintain evidence.

Dail has also properly brought state law claims for negligence and obstruction of justice, which are not time-barred. Those claims did not accrue until August 27, 2007, when Defendants first notified Dail of the results of the DNA testing, or on August 28, 2007, when Dail was finally released from custody, and thus were timely filed on August 26, 2010. Finally, Dail has stated valid claims under the North Carolina Constitution based on Defendants’ violations of his rights to procedural due process and entitlement to exculpatory evidence.

This case presents weighty issues of constitutional significance in an evolving area of law. Consideration of the merits of the claims asserted in this action should follow development of a full factual record.

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Complaint Filed on Behalf of Dwayne Allen Dail

A civil rights complaint was filed this month on behalf of Plaintiff Dwayne Allen Dail against the City of Goldsboro and individual defendants to seek redress for his wrongful incarceration.  The complaint may be viewed here.

Mr. Dail was arrested on May 13, 1988 for the rape of a 12 year old girl.  He maintained his innocence from the date of his arrest onward and insisted that evidence collected from the crime scene be tested against his DNA.  After Mr. Dail’s conviction, the City of Goldsboro reported that the evidence had been destroyed.  Eventually, in 2007, after repeated requests for this evidence, the Goldsboro Police Department acknowledged that, contrary to their previous representations, they were in fact in possession of the evidence from the crime scene.  The DNA evidence was tested against Mr. Dail’s DNA and he was finally exonerated after 18 years of imprisonment and set free.

Mr. Dail’s complaint brings claims under the federal constitution, North Carolina Constitution, and North Carolina common law.  Mr. Dail is represented by Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh, as well as Spencer Parris and Christopher Olson at Martin & Jones.

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