August 11, 2015 – In what is believed to be the third largest settlement for a wrongful conviction in Indiana history, attorneys for Mr. Billy Julian today announced that their client had agreed to a $3 million settlement today with the Town of Frankton and Madison County, IN.
Julian, through his attorneys Mike Kanovitz, Elizabeth Wang, and Steve Art of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, alleged that Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Hanna coached a troubled 15-year-old student into falsely confessing to a March 2001 break-in and fire at the Frankton High School, and implicating Julian as well. But the youth’s story was so full of obvious contradictions that he was dropped as a witness and Julian was released from custody.
Hanna and two Town of Frankton officers, David Huffman and William Amick, then threatened Jeffrey Scott Brooks, a burglary suspect in another case, into turning state’s evidence against Julian in exchange for leniency in his own case. Hanna, Huffman and Amick (who also served as security supervisor at the school) then allegedly induced Jeffrey Scott Brooks’ brother, Ray, into also falsely testifying to save his brother’s freedom. All three officers were accused of feeding the brothers details of the crimes so that their testimonies would be more believable.
But Jeffrey Scott Brooks was under house arrest, with a monitoring bracelet, on the night of the Frankton school fire, and bracelet records showed that he was home and not at the school parking lot as he said in his statement fabricated by the officers. Both brothers later repudiated their testimony.
As Julian’s lawsuit, originally filed in January 2011, alleged,
“the Defendant Officers manipulated witnesses, coached witnesses, threatened or coerced witnesses, and otherwise induced witnesses, with the result that several witnesses made false statements about the Frankton High School break-in, and made false identifications of Mr. Julian as a participant in the burglary.”
The suit also alleged,
“the Defendant Officers, over the course of more than nine years, also manipulated physical evidence, manufactured false inculpatory evidence, and lost or destroyed material exculpatory evidence.”
Furthermore, the misconduct was alleged to be a result of the policies and practices of the Madison County Sheriff and Town of Frankton:
“The Defendant Officers’ misconduct was undertaken pursuant to the policy and practice of the Madison County Sheriff and Madison County, and of the Frankton Police Department and the Town of Frankton, to pursue wrongful convictions by conducting profoundly flawed investigations, by withholding exculpatory information bearing on the crime at issue, and by fabricating inculpatory evidence. In this way, the Madison County Sheriff, Madison County, and the Town of Frankton violated Billy Julian’s rights by maintaining policies and practices that were the moving force driving the foregoing constitutional violations.”
Julian was wrongfully imprisoned for more than three years until his conviction was overturned in 2006, and due to the officers’ misconduct, false charges hung over his head until the charges were dismissed in 2010.
No disciplinary actions were taken by the authorities against Officers Hanna, Huffman and Amick.
Loevy & Loevy is the largest civil rights law firm in the Midwest, has offices in Chicago and Boulder, and has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the entire country over the past decade.