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Man accuses public defenders of malpractice

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An accused child molester who sat in jail for 2 1/2 years until his case was dismissed is suing his former public defenders for legal malpractice.

Donald Woods filed the suit Thursday in federal court against attorneys Bradley B. Jacobs and Leslie D. Merkley alleging legal malpractice because the two didn't question or investigate the allegation that Woods had inserted 4 feet of weed-eater wire into his estranged son's penis eight years earlier.

The suit Donald Woods v. New Albany Police Dept., et al., No. 4:10-cv-0002, was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division. Woods is seeking $5 million under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

Woods was charged with Class A felonies child molesting and criminal deviate conduct in July 2006 following allegations from his estranged wife that Woods inserted the wire into their son's body when he was only five years old in 1998, the last time he had any contact with his wife or son.

The wire was discovered when his son had a CT scan of his pelvis following a fall in 2006.

Jacobs and Merkley were assigned back-to-back as public defenders for Woods; in his suit, Woods claims neither attorney visited him in jail and never questioned how his son could live eight years with the wire inside of him without any physical problems. Woods' third public defender, Jennifer Culotta, obtained medical records in November 2008 and discovered the son had a CT scan on the same area in 2005 and there was no wire inside of him then.

The case was dismissed against Woods in March 2009 but he wasn't released from jail until December 2009.

In addition to his legal malpractice claims, Woods is suing the New Albany Police Department, Detective Sherri Knight, Clark County Sheriff's Department, Clark County Prosecutor Steven D. Stewart, and deputy prosecutor Shelley Marble for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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