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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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