Council Bluffs to pay $6.2 million to settle lawsuit with wrongfully convicted Omaha men - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 12:28 pm
Council Bluffs to pay $6.2 million to settle lawsuit with wrongfully convicted Omaha men

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Local taxpayers won't be on the hook for the cost of a $6.2 million settlement reached between the city and two men who were wrongly convicted of murder.

The city settled a lawsuit Friday with Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee, both of Omaha, in connection with their conviction for the murder of a retired Council Bluffs police captain in 1977.

City Attorney Richard Wade said a special tax won't be required to cover the cost.

“The matter has been satisfactorily resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both sides,” Wade said, noting he couldn't say much more about the case.

The settlement will be covered in part by insurance held by the city.

Harrington and McGhee have said they deserve payment for wrongly spending 25 years in prison.

Harrington sought more than $60 million and McGhee more than $50 million, alleging that Officers Dan Larsen and Lyle Brown, now retired, coerced witnesses into lying and hid evidence.

The city disputed the allegations, arguing that police had enough evidence to take to prosecutors. The men were convicted in separate trials in 1978, and each received life in prison.

The two were freed in 2003 when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors committed misconduct by concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a shotgun. The pair sued Pottawattamie County, eventually settling for $12 million.

Of the $6.2 million to be paid by the city, Harrington and McGhee will be paid $2.3 million immediately and the remainder in six annual payments of more than $528,500. A final payment of just over $728,500 will be made in July 2020.

The agreement splits the money evenly between the men in exchange for dismissal of their lawsuit. It specifies no admission of fault or liability by any party or implies wrongdoing.

Details of the settlement, initially sealed Friday by Magistrate Judge Thomas Shields, were ordered unsealed Tuesday by Judge Robert Pratt after the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request under Iowa's open records law.

Pratt said in the order there was no compelling reason to justify sealing the settlement. He pointed out that Iowa law requires such settlements to be disclosed.

Pratt, who presided over the first trial, had narrowed the issues that jurors in a new trial would have considered.In an April ruling, he said the only issue to survive to a new trial was whether Larsen and Brown deliberately manufactured, coerced or fabricated false evidence against Harrington and McGhee and knowingly used it against them at their murder trials.

He threw out all other allegations, including racial discrimination, that the city failed to train or supervise the officers, and claims that the officers failed to investigate other suspects.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and World-Herald staff writer Andrew J. Nelson.

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