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City Agrees to Pay $6 million to Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit

The City of New York has agreed to pay $6 million to Derrick Deacon, a man who spent over twenty years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Deacon was initially convicted in 1989 as the result of egregious misconduct by law enforcement and prosecutors. After new evidence came to light showing that Mr. Deacon was not the perpetrator, he was granted a retrial and acquitted in minutes. This suit, filed after his acquittal, challenged the official misconduct used to initially convict Mr. Deacon. The New York Daily News covered the settlement here.

ECBA attorneys Earl Ward, Andrew Wilson, Hayley Horowitz, and Jessica Clarke represented Mr. Deacon, together with Glen A. Garber, P.C.

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Earl Ward Secures Not-Guilty Verdict for Man Accused of Potsdam Boy’s Murder

After a three-week trial, Oral Nicholas Hillary was acquitted of the 2011 murder of Garrett Phillips, a 12 year old resident of Potsdam, New York.

Hillary’s legal team, led by ECBA partner Earl S. Ward and co-counsel Norman Siegel, argued that the lack of evidence against Mr. Hillary mandated that he be acquitted of all charges.  As Mr. Ward stated in his closing argument, “There is absolutely no direct evidence tying Mr. Hillary to this crime. Nick Hillary is not the type of person that would walk into a room, put his hands around the neck of a child and strangle him, kill that child. That is not Nick Hillary.” Judge Felix J. Cantena agreed, finding Mr. Hillary not guilty of all charges.

The New York Times extensively covered the trial, among other media outlets. You can watch Judge Cantena read the verdict here. You can listen to Mr. Ward’s closing argument here.

 

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Unreliable DNA Testing Rejected in Upstate Murder Trial

A New York judge rejected prosecutors’ attempts to use controversial DNA methods in the upcoming murder trial of Oral Nicholas Hillary, who is represented by ECBA attorney Earl Ward and co-counsel Normal Siegel.  The August 26 decision is a significant victory for Mr. Hillary, who has maintained his innocence in the 2011 murder of a 12-year-old boy in upstate New York.

Earlier this year, prosecutors stated their intention to use a computer program known as STRmix to analyze a miniscule scraping from the victim’s fingernails, even though previous attempts to link Mr. Hillary’s DNA to the victim were unsuccessful.  Mr. Ward and the defense team challenged the reliability of STRmix at two hearings held in July and August. Judge Felix J. Catena for St. Lawrence County Court agreed with the defense that the program lacked validation and ruled that its results are inadmissible.

The trial is scheduled to begin on September 6 in Canton, New York.

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Ten ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Two Named as Rising Stars

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2016. Partner Debra Greenberger and associate Hayley Horowitz were named as Rising Stars. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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Earl Ward Speaks on Panel on Wrongful Convictions

ECBA partner Earl S. Ward appeared on a panel at Fordham Law School to discuss wrongful convictions. The panelists discussed the problems with eye witness testimony, Brady material, and prosecutorial discretion. Earl has successfully represented many people challenging their convictions. Most recently, he helped secure over $30 million from New York State and New York City for three men who were convicted of a murder they did not commit. Two of the men spent 18 years in prison; the third was incarcerated for over 12 years. Read more about the Firm’s wrongful conviction work here.

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Tamir Rice Settlement in the News

On April 25, 2016, the City of Cleveland agreed to a $6 million payment to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit that arose from the tragic death of Tamir Rice. This settlement has received extensive coverage in the national and local press.

Read coverage of the settlement in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and the Amsterdam News. Read a full profile of the case in GQ.

Listen to an interview with Jonathan Abady on NPR’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

Watch an interview with Zoe Salzman on Democracy Now!.

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City of Cleveland Settles Tamir Rice Lawsuit for $6 Million

The City of Cleveland has agreed to payment of $6 million to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit involving the tragic death of Tamir Rice. Although historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life. Tamir was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police — a young boy with his entire life ahead of him, full of potential and promise.

In a situation such as this, there is no such thing as closure or justice. Nothing will bring Tamir back. His unnecessary and premature death leaves a gaping hole for those who  knew and loved him that can never be filled.

Regrettably, Tamir’s death is not an isolated event. The problem of police violence, especially in communities of  color, is a crisis plaguing our nation. It is the sincere  hope of  the Rice family that Tamir’s death will stimulate a movement for genuine change in our society and our nation’s policing so that no family ever has to suffer a tragedy such as this again.

Tamir’s family was represented by ECBA attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, and Zoe Salzman, and local counsel Subodh Chandra. The New York Times and the New York Daily News, among many other outlets, covered the settlement.

 

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ECBA Obtains Over $30 Million for Three Wrongfully Convicted Men in Infamous “Bronx Six” Case

New York City and State have agreed to pay $23.78 million to Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 18 years for two 1995 murders in which neither man had any involvement. Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez will each receive $8 million from New York City, in addition to $3.89 million previously paid by New York State, for a total of $11.89 million each in settlements.

Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez were jointly indicted with five other individuals for the 1995 murders of a livery taxi driver and a FedEx employee, despite the absence of any physical evidence connecting them to the crimes. A 2012 investigation by federal authorities revealed that the taxi driver’s murder had actually been committed by two gang members whose names came up repeatedly during the NYPD’s 1995 investigation but who were never pursued as suspects. The revelation that the two gang members had previously confessed to committing the taxi driver murder—without any involvement by any of the six people convicted—led to the recantation of a central witness in the FedEx case, who claimed that her trial testimony had been coerced and manufactured by NYPD detectives. After using this new information to help free Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez from prison in 2013, ECBA attorneys Earl S. Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and David A. Lebowitz represented the men in civil litigation against the City and State along with co-counsel Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC.

ECBA and Romano & Kuan previously obtained $6.7 million in settlements from the City and State on behalf of the estate of Israel Vasquez, one of the other individuals wrongly accused of the same two 1995 murders, who spent over 12 years in prison before his conviction was overturned due to the insufficiency of the evidence against him. The team has thus recovered over $30 million for these three families in connection with this tragic case. The New York Times and the New York Daily News, among other publications, covered the settlements.

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Earl Ward Defends Soccer Coach Accused of Murdering Ex-Girlfriend’s Son in Small-Town NY

ECBA partner Earl Ward is representing Oral “Nick” Hillary, a soccer coach in Potsdam, New York, accused in a racially-charged case of killing his ex-girlfriend’s son. As Earl told Potsdam’s 7 News, “This is a case that I think has torn apart the community up there in some ways and I think everyone wants to make sure that justice is done, and justice, as far as I’m concerned, is a verdict that clears Mr. Hillary.” Watch the 7 News report here. Hillary’s trial is scheduled to begin in August.

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Rice Family Disappointed that Officers Will Not Face Criminal Charges

Today, more than a year after Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a grand jury voted not to indict the shooter.  Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome–but not surprised.

It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment.  Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified.  It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire “experts” to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.  These are the sort of “experts” we would expect the officer’s criminal defense attorney to hire—not the prosecutor.

Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination.  Even though it is black letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse.  This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects.

The way Prosecutor McGinty has mishandled the grand jury process has compounded the grief of this family.

The Rice family is grateful for all the community support they have received and urges people who want to express their disappointment with how Prosecutor McGinty has handled this process to do so peacefully and democratically.  We renew our request that the Department of Justice step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting of a 12-year-old child.

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