The Patterson Harkavy Civil Rights Legacy

Patterson Harkavy has been representing the constitutional rights and civil liberties of North Carolina’s workers and residents for over 50 years. Our legacy includes several multi-million-dollar settlements in favor of the wrongfully convicted and the victims of police violence.

2020: Protecting Residents’ Rights in Federal Police Shooting Settlement

In Betton v Myrtle Beach, we obtained an $11.25 million settlement for a man paralyzed in a police shooting after the officers failed to knock and announce themselves in a raid on his home. We used home security footage and forensic analysis to show the police officers lied about what happened leading up to the raid, demonstrating a pattern of constitutional rights violations by the city’s Drug Enforcement Unit. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the officer’s use of qualified immunity in Betton v Myrtle Beach, 942 F.3d 184 (4th Cir. 2019).

2016: Challenging a City and Its Insurance Company After a Wrongful Conviction

In August 2016, Patterson Harkavy settled a case on behalf of Willie Grimes for $3,250,000, and in 2019, it settled a related case in state court for an additional recovery of more than $2,160,000. Grimes had served 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. His conviction was obtained after police officers destroyed crime scene evidence and failed to provide Grimes crime-scene fingerprints that did not match Grimes or the victim. Beginning in 2003, Grimes’ representatives asked the Hickory Police Department to produce any evidence related to his case. The Department still possessed the fingerprints, but did not produce them until 2011. Grimes was exonerated after the fingerprints were found to match another man with a history of violent crime against women. Two years of federal litigation demonstrated that the Hickory Police Department failed to disclose numerous pieces of evidence demonstrating criminal suspects’ innocence in multiple criminal investigations. The subsequent suit in state court resulted in additional recovery based on an insurance company’s failure to properly defend the City of Hickory in the federal lawsuit. Mr. Grimes’ total recovery exceeded $5,410,000.

2013: Pursuing State Forensic Officials that Caused a Wrongful Conviction

In September 2013, Patterson Harkavy settled a case on behalf of Greg Taylor for $4,625,000. Taylor had served 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. His conviction was based on a state crime lab report that falsely indicated a connection between Taylor and the crime scene. Following Taylor’s exoneration, Patterson Harkavy attorneys filed a civil rights suit against the crime lab officials responsible for the misleading lab report. Three years of litigation confirmed that the lab had a long-standing practice of producing misleading reports.

2013: Seeking Justice for an Innocent Defendant Whose Exoneration Was Delayed for Years

In November 2013, Patterson Harkavy settled a case on behalf of Dwayne Dail for $7,520,000. Dail served 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. In 1995, Dail began requesting that crime-scene evidence be subjected to DNA testing, as was his statutory right. The Goldsboro Police Department inaccurately and repeatedly told Dail that all evidence had been destroyed. In 2007, a Goldsboro employee finally found an envelope containing evidence related to the crime. Dail was exonerated after DNA testing demonstrated his innocence. In litigating Dail’s civil claims against in federal district court, Patterson Harkavy defeated the city’s motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment, eventually settling the case after three years of litigation.


These results represent the firm’s history and commitment to fighting powerful interests on behalf of people who are comparatively powerless. But every case is different, and no outcome is ever guaranteed, and the results for these clients do not guarantee similar results for other clients.