A jury in Springfield, Massachusetts, has awarded Mark Schand US$27.127 million after determining that his civil rights had been violated by four police detectives from the Springfield Police Department in a key civil rights case. Mr. Schand spent 27 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder in 1987. After a nine-day trial before Judge William Young in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the jury returned with a verdict against the officers on all counts. Global law firm White & Case LLP represented Mr. Schand on a pro bono basis.
"The verdict is incredibly gratifying and shows that the system can try to correct its mistakes," Mr. Schand said. "I won't stop in my advocacy on behalf of those the justice system has failed, and I look forward to my time with my family, friends and loved ones knowing that this long ordeal is over."
Mr. Schand, of Hartford, Connecticut, was arrested on October 29, 1986, for the September 2, 1986 murder of Victoria Seymour in Springfield, Massachusetts. In November 1987, a jury convicted him of murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Mr. Schand's attempts to appeal his conviction through state proceedings and to seek relief through a federal habeas petition were denied in the mid-1990s. In October 2013, after new witnesses came forward and prior witnesses recanted their prior identifications of Mr. Schand, Justice C. Jeffrey Kinder of the Hampden County Superior Court granted Mr. Schand's motion for a new trial, and the District Attorney for Hampden County declined to continue prosecuting the case. Mr. Schand walked free after 26 years, 11 months and 17 days in jail.
The present civil suit brought on behalf of Mr. Schand by his White & Case legal team alleged violations of his constitutional rights through the use of unduly suggestive identification procedures by four detectives who were assigned to investigate the Victoria Seymour murder. In his complaint, Mr. Schand also alleged that a number of these officers conspired to violate Mr. Schand's constitutional rights.
Joshua Weedman, counsel at White & Case who served as trial counsel and helped lead Mr. Schand's case, said, "We are grateful that the jury recognized the injustice done to Mark and granted a fair award for his suffering. Mark spent 27 years in prison as an innocent man, and while nothing will ever make up for that, he can now try to move forward with his life. We couldn't be more pleased that the jury provided this justice for Mark Schand."
"What struck us about Mark and his family was how patient and resilient they have been throughout this entire ordeal," said Jacqueline Chung, an associate and member of the White & Case team that has been litigating this matter for the past five years. "Mark never wavered in his commitment to the truth, and as a result he, his wife Mia, and his children Kiele, Mark Jr. and Quinton can move forward knowing they've received justice in this matter."
The White & Case legal team who tried the case included partner Heather McDevitt, counsel Joshua Weedman, and associates Jacqueline Chung, Kevin Adam, Elizabeth Stainton, Eugene Hutchinson, Ashley Chase, Camille Shepherd, Gabriella Bensur, Cristen Callan, Elizabeth Goodwin and Tom Enering (all New York).
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