Former Iowa City school counselor wins $12M in negligence lawsuit

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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A Johnson County jury has awarded a former Iowa City elementary school counselor, who had his conviction of sexual abuse of a student vacated in 2016, $12 million in civil damages.


The jury returned the civil verdict Thursday for Donald L. Clark, 54, of Iowa City, after just two hours of deliberation following six days of testimony, according to a news release by Mel C. Orchard, III, of the Spence Law Firm in Jackson, Wyo. Two Iowa lawyers, Thomas P. Frerichs, of Waterloo, and Franks J. Nidey, of Cedar Rapids, also represented Clark at trial.


The jury found that Clark’s original lawyer, John Robertson, a former Johnson County public defender, failed to investigate the prosecution’s case against Clark and a “substandard trial performance led to his conviction and wrongful imprisonment,” according to Clark’s lawyers. Robertson died in 2013.


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Jurors awarded Clark $8 million in past emotional distress damages and $4 million for future damages.


The Iowa Supreme Court upheld Clark’s conviction in 2012. He was accused of sexually abusing a fifth-grade student at Lemme Elementary School during the 2003-04 school year.


However, in post-conviction 2016 ruling, 6th Judicial District Judge Sean McPartland vacated Clark’s conviction after ruling Robertson was ineffective in his defense of Clark, according to the news release. The judge, in his ruling, said Clark was “actually innocent” of the crime and granted him a new trial. Clark had already served six years of his 25 year prison sentence by then.


Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness decided not to prosecute Clark again and the charges were dropped.


“No matter what happens from here on out, I’m not only free from prison, but I’m also free from the state’s prison of lies,” Clark said in a statement after the verdict. With this verdict, the rebuilding of my life can continue.”


Orchard, in a statement, said he is grateful that the jury was “moved to do justice for and honor a member of their community. This verdict for a good man reinforced my belief that the jury system is the most important part of our democracy.”






Frerichs, in a statement, said “Fighting for people like Don Clark who are wrongly accused or convicted is my life’s work. He deserved justice, and this verdict was another step forward for him in setting the record straight.”

 

EasyHawk

HR Heisman
Gold Member
Jun 21, 2015
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This almost happened to very fine teacher and football coach in Pleasantville years ago. A high school girl made claims and he was basically assumed guilty immediately, lost his jobs and many friends. His wife and kids stood by him as they knew it wasn't true. I don't remember if it went to trial, I believe the girl admitted to making it up before it did. But it really haunted him and he had to completely change careers. And of course some people still thought it had to be true.
 
Aug 15, 2022
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This almost happened to very fine teacher and football coach in Pleasantville years ago. A high school girl made claims and he was basically assumed guilty immediately, lost his jobs and many friends. His wife and kids stood by him as they knew it wasn't true. I don't remember if it went to trial, I believe the girl admitted to making it up before it did. But it really haunted him and he had to completely change careers. And of course some people still thought it had to be true.
This is really sad and scary. I hope the liar had criminal consequences.