The Cost of a Brady Violation: Cuyahoga County Defends $42 Million Lawsuit

Cuyahoga County (OH) Prosecutor Bill Mason has hired Ned Searby, a former federal prosecutor, to defend the county and county officials in a $42 million dollar wrongful imprisonment lawsuit filed by Joe D’Ambrosio, who spent twenty years on death row before his conviction was overturned in 2006. A federal judge ruled that prosecutors had withheld evidence that might have exonerated him.

As establish in Brady v Maryland, prosecutors are obligated to turn over to the defense any evidence that might support the defendant’s innocence. Failure to do so is a Brady violation and can be reversible error, as it was in this case.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports here that Searby will charge the county no more than $745,000 for the defense legal fees.

D’Ambrosio, freed two years ago, was not acquitted of the murder, and the question of his guilt or innocence will likely be an issue impacting the lawsuit and the amount of any settlement or award.

The article notes that U.S. District Judge Kate O’Maley wrote in 2009, “While there is certainly no clear-cut demonstration of D’Ambrosio’s guilt, the evidence also does not so strongly suggest his innocence that, standing alone, the state of evidence against him would demand an order barring retrial.”

The standard of proof in a civil suit is “preponderance of the evidence.” Lewis Katz, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said this “means more likely than not.” The tougher standard in criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

D’Ambrosio has filed a separate suit against the state.

3 responses to “The Cost of a Brady Violation: Cuyahoga County Defends $42 Million Lawsuit

  1. Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209

    Thank you , Nancy .

    I would defend the case for $745 .

    My answer would be succinct.

    1. The defendants admit the plaintiff’s allegations .

    2. Yea , so what ?

    3. Does the plaintiff want the two-signature check written by right-handed persons , by left-handed persons , or one of each ?

    4, We are out of here .

    No opening statement .

  2. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on prosecutorial immunity mean that it is likely this case will get dismissed unless the plaintiff can show the police (as opposed to the District Attorney’s Office) had a hand in withholding the evidence or that the District Attorney conducted its own investigation so that the office would only be qualifiedly immune.

    • Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209

      Oscar Michelen [Esq.]
      8May 2012 at 09:51 EDT

      Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on prosecutorial immunity …

      Unfortunately , Mr. Michelen may be correct , IMLO.

      The chap that sanctioned Reinhard Heydrich was probably aware of the futility to ask the civil courts to hold Heydrich accountable for his many shortcomings.

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