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Two Former Oklahoma Death Row Prisoners Obtain $3.15 Million Settlement

by Derek Gilna

Last year, Yancy L. Douglas, 43, and Paris Lapriest Powell, 44, former death row prisoners in Oklahoma, accepted a total $3.15 million settlement in their federal civil rights lawsuits brought against their prosecutor and the State of Oklahoma. Douglas and Powell were exonerated, and their wrongful murder convictions set aside by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009.

Both men were convicted in separate trials of the drive-by shooting of 14-year-old Shauna Farrow on June 24, 1993, in Oklahoma City. The Tenth Circuit found that the state prosecutor, Brad Miller, had committed misconduct after knowingly using false testimony to obtain the convictions.

Miller was suspended from the practice of law for 180 days by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2013, for “reprehensible” conduct in connection with that case – a modest punishment considering the more than two decades Douglas and Powell spent in prison for a crime they did not commit. One of the Supreme Court justices said Miller’s actions in the wrongful conviction cases “take us into the dark, unseen, ugly, shocking nightmare vision of a prosecutor who loves victory more than he loves justice.”

Miller allegedly persuaded witness Derrick Smith, who was shot during the drive-by and was himself the subject of prosecution for various crimes, to conceal from the jury that Miller had “Personally interviewed witnesses other than Smith to attempt to fabricate, partially successfully, corroboration of Smith’s false testimony...,” and that Miller had promised Smith leniency on his charges in return for testifying falsely.

Douglas’ complaint also accused Miller of trying to conceal that “Smith gave police multiple stories about what happened, including, at one time, stating that seven or eight persons occupied the [car] from which the shots were fired. One of the officers informed Smith he believed Smith was lying about what happened.”

According to the complaint, “The actions of Brad Miller constituted malicious prosecution of Yancy Douglas in contravention of the Due Process Clause of the federal constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment and was [sic] in derogation of Mr. Douglas’s rights under the constitution’s Eighth Amendment. Mr. Miller’s actions further constituted negligent performance of duties under Oklahoma law, and constituted compensable torts under the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, 51 Okla. Stat. § 151 et seq.”

The $1 million settlement in Douglas’ case was reached in August 2017, while Powell’s $2.15 million settlement was reached in September. Most of the funds came from the insurance carrier representing the prosecutor’s office, the Oklahoma Attorneys Mutual Insurance Co. Douglas, however, will not be able to enjoy his settlement proceeds anytime soon, as he is currently serving a 10-year sentence for assaulting a police officer during a 2014 traffic stop. See: Powell v. Miller, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Okla.), Case No. 5:10-cv-01294-D and Douglas v. Miller, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Okla.), Case No. 5:10-cv-01295-D. 

Additional sources: www.newsok.com, Tulsa World

 

Related legal cases

Powell v. Miller

Douglas v. Miller