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.
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.