[DP] Fwd: City settles with freed inmate for $9 million---
caroleadamsjohnson at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 20 09:11:39 CDT 2003
This is the case in which Jeanette Popp's daughter was killed.
>From: Rick Halperin <rhalperi at mail.smu.edu>
>Reply-To: TCADP-BOARD01 at yahoogroups.com
>To: TCADP-BOARD01 <TCADP-BOARD01 at yahoogroups.com>
>Subject: [TCADP-BOARD01] death penalty news---TEXAS
>Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 10:25:24 -0500 (Central Daylight Time)
>City settles with freed inmate for $9 million---Payment will end suit
>filed by man wrongly convicted of 1988 murder
>Richard Danziger, wrongly convicted of a 1988 Austin rape and murder for
>which he served 12 years in a Texas prison, won $9 million Thursday night
>from the Austin City Council.
>The unprecedented award was apparently one of the largest in the country
>among the wrongly convicted. It settles Danziger's lawsuit against three
>former Austin Police Department homicide investigators for, among other
>things, the mental incapacitation he suffered from beatings in prison. The
>settlement was reached last month during mediation between his lawyers and
>city attorneys. The council made it official Thursday night.
>Danziger's co-defendant in a similar but separate lawsuit, Christopher
>Ochoa, did not receive anything in Thursday's council action. Bill
>Allison, Ochoa's lawyer, said he was still engaged in mediation with the
>city for a proposed settlement of Ochoa's lawsuit. Ochoa, who was jailed
>for almost 11 years, does not suffer from incapacitation.
>City attorneys and staff recommended a $5.5 million settlement for Ochoa,
>but the council, saying the amount was too much, told the staff to
>"I want to commend the city attorney, the City Council and the city
>manager for stepping to the plate and taking responsibility and doing the
>right thing," said Scott Ozmun, Danziger's lawyer. "This will enable
>Richard to be taken care of for the rest of his life, and we're very happy
>with this settlement."
>Ozmun's law firm, Whitehurst Harkness Ozmun & Brees, will receive 1/3 of
>the settlement amount in attorney's fees.
>Danziger, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with his sister, Barbara
>Oakley, could not be reached for comment. Oakley said she was told by
>Ozmun to refer all calls to him.
>Ozmun said Oakley and Danziger would be available for comment after a
>probate court finalizes the settlement.
>In their lawsuits, in which Danziger sought $100 million and Ochoa $70
>million, the men contended that the police failed to adequately train or
>monitor homicide investigators Hector Polanco, Bruce Boardman and Edward
>Balagia, and that they committed illegal acts such as threatening
>violence, fabricating a confession, and destroying and hiding exculpatory
>evidence. Danziger and Ochoa also sued the investigators' direct
>supervisors and the city.
>The pair were sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of Nancy
>De Priest, a 20-year-old restaurant worker who was bound, raped and shot
>at a North Austin Pizza Hut in 1988.
>In 2000, DNA evidence exonerated both men and convicted Achim Joseph
>Marino, who had confessed to the crime in letters to the Police Department
>and the Austin American-Statesman 4 years earlier.
>Ochoa had initially confessed to De Priest's slaying. He also implicated
>Danziger, who insisted he was innocent. Years later, Ochoa recanted,
>saying investigators had given him crime scene information and then
>coerced him into a false confession, threatening to seek the death penalty
>and arrange for him to be placed in a cell with other prisoners who would
>regard him as "fresh meat."
>Shortly after entering prison, Danziger was beaten so severely by another
>inmate that he was left with brain damage. His lawsuit described his
>suffering in detail, including seizures, repeated suicide attempts and
>occasions in which he hid in a corner, weeping.
>Lawyers said he now requires around-the-clock supervision. His sister has
>said that, if left alone, he would forget to take his medication, which
>control his seizures, or even forget to eat.
>Ozmun said medical professionals had worked up a "life plan" for Danziger
>that concluded he would require $5.5 million for lifetime care.
>"And we anticipated potentially significant damages as well," Ozmun said.
>"We think this is a very fair result."
>David Smith, chief of the litigation division in the city attorney's
>office, said negotiations in the case began last fall. He said the large
>settlement was justified.
>"First off, what's 12 years of freedom worth to an innocent man? The
>second issue is he has a permanent brain injury and will need care for the
>rest of his life."
>City Manager Toby Futrell said paying the $9 million in already woeful
>budgetary times would be an immediate burden on the city. She said it
>would be paid from money saved by restructuring debt and would not require
>Council Member Brewster McCracken said the settlement "is an expression of
>his damages, of what he personally suffered."
>McCracken, a former prosecutor whose wife is an assistant district
>attorney in Travis County, also said that "I think there's some real
>concern about the process that led to his wrongful conviction."
>In discussing a proposed settlement with Ochoa, McCracken pointed out that
>Ochoa repeatedly confessed to the crime and said that as the person who
>accused Danziger of participating, Ochoa bears some responsibility for
>The settlement is one of the largest nationwide among those wrongly
>A study conducted last year by The Associated Press showed that the size
>of settlements often depends on where people live, when they were freed
>and how skilled their lawyers are. 4 years ago, four men from Illinois
>shared $36 million after they were locked up for a combined 65 years --
>but a Texas man cleared of rape and freed 3 years ago got $27,854 for his
>16 1/2 years behind bars, the report said.
>Last year, Texas lawmakers passed a law that boosted the payouts to
>$25,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, up to $500,000. Until
>then, few had received much more than $25,000, the report said.
>Many wrongly convicted people have said that they ran out of money and
>became homeless after they were released and that their settlements were
>about more than fairness; they were about survival.
>(source: Austin American-Statesman)
>Embattled Bradford plans early retirement---Cites wife's pregnancy instead
>of HPD woes
>Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford, dogged by a series of embarrassments
>for himself and his department over the past year, told his immediate
>staff Thursday that he will retire in September -- several months earlier
>Bradford declined to comment publicly on his decision but told about a
>dozen staff members that he is stepping down to spend more time with his
>wife, who is expecting the couple's first child.
>The decision, announced in a private meeting, follows a year in which 1
>major problem after another has plagued the Police Department.
>They include scandal and scientific problems at the crime lab, a
>mishandled parking lot raid that ended in the arrests of many innocent
>bystanders, Bradford's trial on perjury charges, which a judge eventually
>dismissed, and the recent arrests of 5 veteran officers accused of shaking
>down cantina owners for protection money and warning them of upcoming
>raids for prostitution and other illegal activities.
>The 47-year-old chief, who took the reins of the department in 1996, did
>not return calls seeking comment. He is scheduled to hold a news
>conference with Mayor Lee Brown this morning. 3 employees who work in his
>office confirmed his retirement plans, however.
>Just last month, Bradford said he would not step down in the face of
>intense criticism about his supervision of the crime lab and allegations
>that he knew of problems there 4 years ago.
>Council members and police union officials called for his resignation
>after the Houston Chronicle reported that crime lab employees had sent him
>a memo in September 1999 describing the lab as "a total disaster."
>Bradford deflected criticism, saying he never saw the memo and was unaware
>of problems at the lab until he ordered it shut down late last year.
>But while the chief cited his wife's pregnancy Thursday as a motivation
>for leaving his post early, City Councilman Gabriel Vasquez said Bradford
>earlier this summer had used it in a personal plea to help him remain in
>Vasquez said that during a "running conversation" that touched on the
>problematic crime lab and last August's botched Kmart parking lot raid,
>Bradford said his wife, Dawn "Dee," was pregnant again after having a
>miscarriage. He didn't want her to have to cope with the stress of seeing
>him forced from office, Vasquez said.
>"We were going back and forth about what was best for the city and he made
>this personal plea," said Vasquez, who had orchestrated a demand from 9 of
>the 15 council members that Bradford step down.
>The ultimate decision was Brown's, not the council's, and Bradford kept
>The Bradfords' baby is due in early November, said Anita Fuentes, his
>senior community liaison, who was among those confirming the retirement
>Bradford told his staff that Brown will decide who replaces him, Fuentes
>said. One possible candidate is Assistant Chief Tim Oettmeier, who served
>as interim chief when Bradford was relieved of duty while awaiting trial
>on the perjury charges.
>Bradford, who also is a lawyer, did not discuss his career plans or say
>whether he might seek political office, although there has been widespread
>speculation that he will run for mayor or district attorney.
>He also did not specify his retirement date, although Sept. 10 will mark
>his 24-year anniversary with HPD.
>Some of those in the meeting said they weren't surprised by his decision,
>because he originally had planned to step down at the end of Brown's term
>"For Bradford the man, this may be the best thing. For the Police
>Department, that may be a different issue, but only time will tell," said
>Allen Baquet, an administration manager in the chief's office.
>Baquet, a friend of Bradford's for 20 years, noted that the past year has
>been difficult and he thinks the chief is exhausted.
>"His wife lost a baby, the man got indicted over total foolishness, his
>mom passed away in the past couple years. It's been one series of events
>after another. But through all of them, he hung tough and did what he
>needed to do."
>Bradford has had a far lengthier tenure as chief than most metropolitan
>police chiefs, said Mark Clark, executive director of the Houston Police
>"He's survived among colleagues who haven't done half of what he's done in
>terms of tenure," Clark said.
>Although news of Bradford's retirement plans and rumors that he will run
>for mayor were circulating among patrol officers, colleagues said the
>mayoral aspirations aren't true.
>"He never touched on any of that stuff" in Thursday's meeting, Baquet
>Bradford was nominated in November 1996 by then-Mayor Bob Lanier, and
>easily won council confirmation to replace Chief Sam Nuchia, who left for
>a seat on the 1st Court of Appeals.
>His climb from patrol officer in 1979 to chief in 1996 was marked by some
>shortcuts. Promoted to sergeant in 1983, he was elevated over all of the
>lieutenants and captains to assistant chief in 1991 by then-Chief
>Elizabeth Watson, who had won the right to hand-pick her command staff
>rather than adhere to civil service promotions.
>While working as a police officer, Bradford graduated magna cum laude from
>Texas Southern University. He also has a law degree from the University of
>Lanier was at the end of his term when he appointed Bradford, and many
>believed Bradford would hold the job only until the new mayor chose his
>own chief. But shortly after taking office in January 1998, Brown said he
>would keep Bradford.
>The chief faced his 1st critical test in July 1998, when 23-year-old Pedro
>Oregon Navarro was fatally shot during a botched drug raid by members of a
>police anti-gang task force.
>As court records revealed that the task force had conducted 432 similar
>drug investigations without warrants since 1994, Bradford and the
>department suffered. He fired the 6 officers involved in the case,
>although telling the civil service commission that Oregon probably did
>have a gun, as the officers claimed.
>Bradford enjoyed some important victories as chief, such as winning police
>officers the right to negotiate their salaries and benefits and securing
>City Hall's support for those contracts.
>Despite the department's well-chronicled problems, public opinion of HPD
>improved under Bradford's watch, and overall crime -- and fear of crime --
>remained relatively low. In the most recent annual Houston Area Survey, 60
>percent of respondents in the past 3 years rated police protection good to
>When asked the biggest issue facing Houstonians, 73 % of the respondents
>said crime was their top concern in 1994, but the percentage has fallen
>every year since, with only 10 % rating it their top issue this year.
>But Bradford and the department have been badly bruised over the past
>The botched raid at a westside Kmart last August resulted in the arrests
>of 278 people, all of whom later had their charges dropped and several of
>whom sued the city. Capt. Mark Aguirre later was fired for his oversight
>of the raid, and Sgt. Ken Wenzel opted to resign.
>Both were charged with official oppression. Aguirre was acquitted in June,
>however, and the case against Wenzel was then dismissed.
>Aguirre also played a role in another of Bradford's troubles. In September
>2002, the chief was accused of lying under oath about whether he had
>called Assistant Chief J.L. Breshears an obscenity.
>The allegation sprang from a grievance hearing about Aguirre's use of
>profane and threatening language.
>In January, state District Judge Brian Rains dismissed the case before
>Bradford's attorneys could begin their defense, saying the evidence was
>too weak to continue the trial.
>Fresh from that victory, Bradford's prospects appeared revitalized. But
>problems in the HPD crime lab -- including a leaking roof that could have
>contaminated evidence, improper lab procedures and a lack of basic
>record-keeping -- finally led to a shutdown of the facility.
>Nine lab employees have been disciplined thus far, more than 1,300 cases
>are under review and prosecutors have ordered new tests on 370 of them.
>One person has been released from prison as a result of the
>After his announcement Thursday, Bradford spent time preparing for today's
>scheduled appearance before a Harris County grand jury investigating the
>crime lab problems.
>(source: Houston Chronicle)
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