[Ppnews] Attorneys say Iowa detectives framed Nebraska Men
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Nov 10 11:53:35 EST 2012
(The previous email had an erroneous subject line - this case is not
to be confused with the Omaha 2 - sorry about any confusion, but goes
to show the consistency of government and police abuse )
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
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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