[Ppnews] Attorneys say Iowa detectives framed BPP Omaha Two

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 9 14:09:45 EST 2012

  Attorneys say Iowa detectives framed Nebraska men

By DAVID PITT | Associated Press -- Thu, Nov 1, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --- Lawyers for two black men wrongly convicted in 
the 1977 murder of a retired white Iowa police officer told jurors in a 
civil trial Thursday that investigators coerced witnesses into 
fabricating testimony.

Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee are suing Council Bluffs and two 
retired police investigators for more than $100 million. The men were 
sent to prison for life for the shotgun killing of John Schweer, a 
retired police captain who was working as a security guard for local car 
dealerships. Harrington and McGhee were freed in 2003 after 25 years in 
prison after the Iowa Supreme Court found prosecutors committed misconduct.

Pottawatamie County later agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims 
against two former prosecutors while not admitting wrongdoing, but the 
settlement did not resolve claims against Council Bluffs and former 
detectives Dan Larsen and Lyle Brown.

"The evidence will show these cops betrayed law and order, betrayed the 
oath they took as police officers and they betrayed their duty to 
protect us all," Harrington's attorney, Gerry Spence, told jurors during 
opening statements Thursday. "If they can do it to the least of us they 
can do it to anybody."

The city of Council Bluffs disputes allegations that the investigators 
framed McGhee and Harrington and contends the officers had enough 
evidence against them to take to prosecutors and to lead to convictions.

David Baker, who represents Larsen and Brown, said the officers were 
determined to find who killed Schweer and it makes no sense that they 
would try to frame someone else.

"I believe the evidence before you will be that the very last thing my 
clients wanted to happen was for the true killer of Mr. Schweer to go 
free," he told jurors.

Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say 
detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft 
suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and 
pressure to solve the retired captain's killing.

Despite little physical evidence, Harrington and McGhee were convicted 
at 1978 trials.

A prison barber, Anne Danaher, befriended Harrington and believed his 
story that he was innocent. She dug into the case and discovered 
evidence in the police files that would have pointed to another suspect 
that had not been provided to defense attorneys.

The Iowa Supreme Court found that prosecutors committed misconduct in 
concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a 
shotgun. Key witnesses had also recanted their testimony, saying they 
were pressured into implicating the men.

"Good police officers must be open-minded and honestly follow every 
lead," Steve Davis, McGhee's attorney, told jurors. "They don't let 
their personal prejudice influence how they think. By all means they 
don't manufacture evidence to frame innocent people for a crime."

But the city's attorney, Kristopher Madsen, said the officers followed 
proper investigative techniques and had considered other suspects until 
evidence surfaced connecting McGhee and Harrington to the car dealership 
where Schweer was shot.

"You will hear no credible evidence of frame-ups, coercion, threats of 
terrorizing witnesses, or kidnapping witnesses," he said.

He also said he does not believe the assertion of McGhee and Harrington 
that most of the witnesses against them have recanted. The jury will be 
asked to decide the facts after hearing the evidence over the next three 
weeks, he said.

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