Council Bluffs to Pay $6 Million to Settle Lawsuit for Wrongful Conviction

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“Under these circumstances, the court finds that the public interest in open access to the court and its records outweighs any potential interest of the parties in keeping the settlement under seal,” he wrote.

Harrington and McGhee were released in 2003 after the Iowa Supreme Court found prosecutors committed misconduct by hiding evidence that could have helped them in their 1978 trials. Pottawattamie County agreed to pay them $12 million in 2010 to settle claims against two former prosecutors.

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.

The ruling released the city of Council Bluffs from direct liability, but the city could have been held responsible for paying if a jury had returned a verdict against the officers and a judge had found the acts of the officers were “a willful and wanton act or omission,” according to Iowa law.

The city was continuing to pay legal fees for Larsen and Brown.

The city will pay the money out of its insurance fund, money collected under a tax called a tort levy that city residents pay to offset the cost of litigation and legal bills.

(Photo: AP)

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