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Wrongful conviction lawyers seek to talk to jurors

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 11:24 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 11:24 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — The attorneys for two men whose lawsuit against Council Bluffs and two former police officers for wrongful conviction ended in mistrial are asking permission from the judge to talk to jurors.

A mistrial was declared Dec. 14 filed after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict. Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee had sought millions of dollars claiming they deserved payment for spending 25 years in prison for murder convictions that were overturned based on misconduct of prosecutors.

Last week, Harrington and McGhee’s attorneys asked Judge Robert Pratt to set aside rules prohibiting jury contact. The attorneys say it would be irresponsible to embark on a new trial without learning more about jurors’ impressions and deliberations.

Attorneys for the city and the police officers say they don’t object.

Harrington and McGhee, both of Omaha, Neb., filed the original lawsuit in 2005, with Harrington seeking more than $60 million and McGhee more than $50 million. They alleged that retired officers Dan Larsen and Lyle Brown coerced witnesses into lying and hid evidence from their attorneys in the 1978 trials.

Both men were sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of John Schweer, a retired police captain who was working as a security guard at a Council Bluffs car dealership. Harrington and McGhee were freed in 2003 after a quarter-century in prison after the Iowa Supreme Court found prosecutors committed misconduct.

After a week of deliberation, jurors signaled they had verdicts Dec. 14. But once in the courtroom, three women on the 12-person jury said they didn’t agree with the verdict read in court, which indicated jurors had found in favor of Larsen, Brown and the city of Council Bluffs on both major issues. The first issue was whether Harrington and McGhee’s constitutional rights to due process had been violated. The second was whether the city had failed to adequately train and supervise the police officers.

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