Siblings secure settlement against Evansville, Kentucky police in false confession case

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A wrongful imprisonment lawsuit filed by an Evansville family against local police has been put to rest years after three teens were allegedly coerced into confessing to murdering their homeless uncle — something the accused claim never happened.

Siblings William, Deadra and Andrea Hurt — respectively aged 18, 19 and 16 at the time — were arrested in June 2012 after the body of their “Uncle Mark” washed up on the banks of the Ohio River.

Earlier this month, the Hurt family settled a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit they filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Evansville Division, back in 2014 against Evansville and Kentucky police officers and the state medical examiner.

In Hurt v. Vantlin, et al., 3:14-cv-00092, the Hurt family maintained that Marcus Golike, a 54-year-old homeless man and foster brother to their mother, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had often threatened to jump off of a bridge near where his body was found.

William was the last person to see Golike before his death, the lawsuit states. The two were close and had played chess together at the Hurts’ family home that evening before Golike left for the night.

Although “ample evidence of suicide existed” and no evidence indicated the siblings murdered Golike, the lawsuit alleged all three were harshly interrogated for several hours at a time until they ultimately gave false confessions, according to the family’s attorney, Theresa Kleinhaus of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.

William was charged but later acquitted of murder and robbery resulting in bodily injury after spending more than seven months in jail. Charges against Deadra were eventually dismissed after she spent three months in jail. Prosecutors declined to pursue Andrea’s case after she spent one week in jail.

Both the Indiana Southern District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to fully award summary judgment to any of the defendants in the siblings’ suit except for medical examiner Amy Burrows-Beckham.

Specifically, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2018 allowed the suit to proceed after determining that qualified immunity was not appropriate for certain claims against the officers.

When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review that ruling and denied cert, the teens’ civil lawsuit was scheduled for a September 2019 trial that got pushed back to September 2021.

The parties settled the suit before it could get there, however. Kleinhaus told The Indiana Lawyer that while the case is a significant victory for civil rights, details on the settlement figure could not be shared.

“This settlement is a huge victory for the Hurts and demonstrates their innocence once again,” Kleinhaus said in an. Aug. 10 statement. “We hope this significant win deters other law enforcement officers in Evansville and beyond from ever repeating the coercion they inflicted on the Hurts.”

IL has reached out to defense counsel for comment.

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