Today's Lincoln Journal Star carries the AP report, "Attorney General: State had to settle Murdock murder suit," written by Grant Schulte. It's also available via the San Francisco Chronicle.
Attorney General Jon Bruning said Monday that the state had no choice but to settle lawsuits filed by two men who were falsely accused of killing a southeastern Nebraska couple in 2006.
Bruning defended the Nebraska State Patrol investigators who were involved in the case, but he argued that taking the suit to trial likely would have cost more than the nearly $1 million that the state agreed to pay. Bruning blamed David Kofoed, former Douglas County crime scene investigations director, who served prison time for evidence tampering in the case.
"This case was just poisoned by Kofoed's planting of evidence," Bruning said at a news conference on an unrelated subject. "We felt we had no choice but to settle it, to save the taxpayers' money. Had we gone to trial, the attorneys' fees that the state would have paid could have been a multiple of what we paid to settle the case."
Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson initially were charged in the 2006 shotgun slayings of Wayne and Sharmon Stock in their farmhouse in the town of Murdock. The men spent months in jail before being cleared of murder charges. Two Wisconsin residents — 24-year-old Jessica Reid and 26-year-old Gregory Fester II — were eventually convicted and sentenced.
Livers and Sampson sued the Nebraska State Patrol, state investigators, and local law enforcement officials with Douglas and Cass counties. The lawsuits said they were detained without probable cause and subjected to coercive interrogation that led Livers, who is mentally disabled, to falsely confess.
Bruning said the state agreed to pay $600,000 in the Livers case, Cass County paid $1 million and Douglas County paid $50,000. In the Sampson case, the state paid $375,000, Cass County paid $515,000 and Douglas County paid $75,000.
"Men falsely accused in 2006 murders to get $2.6 million in settlement," by Joe Duggan in the Omaha World-Herald.
The cost of a murder investigation gone wrong: $2.6 million.
Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson have made the State of Nebraska and two counties pay for falsely accusing them of a 2006 double murder in rural Murdock. The case involved a rare combination of a coerced false confession and planted DNA evidence.
Livers agreed to a $1.65 million settlement; Sampson will receive $965,000.
The men were charged with the April 17, 2006, shotgun murders of Wayne and Sharmon Stock, a well-respected couple who farmed near Murdock. Two Wisconsin teenagers with no connection to the accused men later pleaded guilty to the slayings and are serving life in prison.
The men filed federal civil rights claims against sheriff's investigators for Cass and Douglas Counties along with investigators for the Nebraska State Patrol.
Bruning insisted Monday that the two State Patrol officers who helped get the confession acted “honorably.”
“It frustrates me greatly that their efforts have been brought under suspicion because of David Kofoed's malfeasance,” Bruning said.
Attorneys for Livers and Sampson strongly disagreed with Bruning's description of the patrol investigators.
Video of Livers' interrogation shows that they threatened him with the death penalty and fed him details from the crime scene so he could make a confession, said Locke Bowman, a Chicago attorney who represents Livers. And they withheld for months the fact that Livers recanted the next day.
“David Kofoed's misconduct, which was deeply egregious, was just piling on after the Nebraska State Patrol and Cass County Sheriff's Department started the snowball rolling downhill,” Bowman said.
Earlier coverage of the Nebraska case begins at the link.