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Terry Harrington: Case Dismissed

This article is more than 10 years old.
Remember Terry Harrington? Many, many listeners called and wrote in when we spoke to him back in November.

Terry spent 25 years in prison, convicted of killing a retired police officer. But he was framed. The prosecutors even admitted as much, in court, years later.

And here's the kicker, the thing that makes a person’s jaw drop: The law of the land, as it now stands, does not hold those prosecutors liable.  Astonishingly, law enforcement officers who are so inclined have a legal right to frame the innocent.

In prison, Terry began a long battle to clear his name and get the law changed. He committed one of the greatest acts, one of the proudest feats, of American citizenship: He and his lawyers took his case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He himself sat in the Supreme Court in Washington. He wanted two things: To clear his own name and to get the Supreme Court to declare that there should be no legal right to frame the innocent.

Well, the other day, Pottawattamie County, on behalf of the prosecutors, cut the process short, by settling out of court. Terry Harrington will share $12 million with Scott McGhee, who was also framed and served time, and with the lawyers who helped them. Here is a report from the Omaha World-Herald and one from the Christian Science Monitor.

I called Terry to ask him that most clichéd of reporter questions: “How does it feel…?”

Terry says he regrets in many ways that the case did not go forward, and that the country’s highest court did not have the chance to declare that citizens have a constitutional right not to be framed.

But despite that, he says it’s a big relief that the long legal battle is over.

I asked him if the settlement money puts his heart at ease, makes up for the years he spent in the prison system. Nope, nothing will fill that hole, he said. He says if he let himself, he could still tie himself in knots thinking about his time in jail and about the people who put him there, but he decided long ago, court or no court, settlement or no settlement, to move on.

There are lawyers’ fees to pay of course. But there’s no doubt the settlement money will be a big help to a working man. Speaking of which, does Terry plan to quit working? “Nope,” says Terry.

This program aired on January 6, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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