3rd District Judge Denies Wrongful Incarceration Claim

Judge Wayne Smith, a 3rd District Judge, ruled on Thursday, July 17, denying a claim for wrongful incarceration filed by Albert Ronnie Burrell, Jr. and Michael Graham, who were each convicted of 1st Degree Murder in Farmerville, La. in 1987.  The murders involved the brutal killing of William and Callie Frost on the evening of August 31, 1986, when someone shot through the window of their rural home in Union Parish, killing both of them and then robbing their home.  Both Defendants spent 12 years on death row, when their convictions were overturned in 2000, after Judge Cynthia Woodard granted a new trial to both Defendants in 2000.  (attached ruling).  At the time of her ruling, the case was being prosecuted by the La. Attorney General's Office after the District Attorney, Tommy Adkins recused his office.  The attorney general subsequently dismissed charges against both defendants resulting in their release.

The Defendants brought a civil action seeking compensation for their wrongful incarceration under a state law which authorized payment of $25,000 for each year of incarceration up to 10 years.  The Attorney General's Office was recused from the civil case, since it had participated in the criminal proceeding.  Buddy Caldwell asked 4th District Attorney Jerry Jones if he would agree to handle the matter.  Jones agreed and assigned the case to assistant DA Neal Johnson.  The matter was presented after a week long trial in Farmerville, La., on September 23, 2013.  The Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Chuck Lloyd from Minneapolis, MN and Nick Brustin from New York, NY.

The statute required the Plaintiffs to prove to the court that they were factually innocent of the charges by clear and convincing evidence.  Judge Wayne Smith, who presided over the case ruled that the Plaintiffs had failed to prove their factual innocence to the charges, and dismissed their suit.

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