This article was originally published on October 1, 2021, in 2022 Best Lawyers in the Midwest.
Courts throughout the Midwest have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases in several states in the Midwest.
Ciolino v. Simon
In August of 1982, while on a late-night walk, Jerry Hillard, 19, and his fiancé Marilyn Green, 18, were murdered in a park on the South side of Chicago. Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism’s Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongly convicted individuals, immediately stepped in to defend Chicago PD’s first suspect, Anthony Porter. Porter’s conviction was quickly dismissed with the Innocence Project suspecting a different individual entirely for both murders—Alstory Simon. Paul Ciolino, a private investigator previously hired by the Innocence Project, was given the task of interviewing Simon with the hopes of getting his confession to both murders on tape. Through use of pressuring tactics and procured witness statements, Ciolino was able to guide Simon towards a false confession. Despite many remaining convinced that he was innocent, Simon plead guilty to murder in the first degree and was given a sentence of 37 years. Now almost 40 years later, Simon, following his subsequent release in 2015, continues to seek compensation in a defamation suit against Ciolino, the Innocence Project and Northwestern University.
Ricks v. State of Michigan
Desmond Ricks was found guilty of armed robbery and assault with intent to rob in 1987. After serving a 4-year sentence, Ricks was released on parole in late 1991 with 4 years and 118 days remaining on his sentence. No more than a year later, Ricks witnessed the public murder of Gerry Bennett, a 21-year-old patron of the Top Hat Restaurant in Detroit, who was standing in the parking lot with a total of 126 grams of cocaine in his possession. While fleeing from the gunman, Ricks dropped his jacket at the scene, a piece of evidence police would later go on to use to implicate him in Bennett’s murder. Along with the jacket, police also managed to falsify ballistic reports, claiming the bullets used to kill Bennett came from Ricks’ .38 caliber revolver, a gun legally owned by his mother and kept for the purpose of home safety. Despite Ricks not having access to the revolver during the time of the murder, he was convicted of murder in the second-degree and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. In 2017, immediately following a police ballistic re-examination, Ricks was fully exonerated and released from prison after serving 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Currently, Ricks is seeking compensation from the city of Detroit under the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act (WICA).
Erickson v. Morrison
In 1926, James and Rose Logan conveyed the surface rights of their 139-acre estate in Guernsey County, Ohio to their friends Edward and Alta Riggs. During the transfer process, the Logans managed to retain the mineral rights to the land’s oil, gas and coal through selective use of language in the formal reservation deed. In 1978, after 52 years and five separate mineral rights transfers, the land’s mineral assets ended up with Paul and Vesta Morrison. This would be the case for another 39 years, until recently in 2017 when the Ericksons, distant relatives of the original landowners, filed a claim in the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court stating that through declaratory judgement and virtue of reservation, the mineral rights of the land belong to them. The Morrisons quickly responded to these claims by stating that the reservation of the land’s mineral rights was extinguished with the passing of Ohio’s 1989 Marketable Title Act and Dormant Mineral Act. The trial court approved the Morrisons 2017 claims, leaving both families in an appeals battle that is still ongoing today.
Reimringer v. Anderson
Aaron Reimringer signed a lease to rent a single-family house in Monticello, Minnesota from landlord and owner Bart Anderson in August of 2019. The agreed upon lease stated that Reimringer had to provide $2,500 a month in rent and required him to pay both first and last month’s rent plus an additional $2,500 security deposit, $7,500 in total. As is the case with most lease agreements, Anderson stated clearly, “if the tenant fails to meet or materially breaches this lease, the landlord/property owner is within their legal right to invoke an unlawful detainer action and evict them.” In September, Reimringer moved into the single-family house with his girlfriend and their two children, but failed to pay the lease and security deposit prior to moving in. Over the course of the month, Anderson visited his property to inquire about the missing lease payment and on multiple occasions both Reimringer and his girlfriend failed to meet the demands of the lease agreement. By the end of September, Anderson had yet to receive any kind of rent payment upon his last visit to the property, resulting in Reimringer immediately being served an eviction notice. Currently, Reimringer is seeking compensation in Minnesota Appellate Courts for “entitled relief,” claiming Anderson failed to conduct the eviction process properly.
Cutchin v. Beard
Back in 2017, Slyvia Watson, 72, her granddaughter Claudine Cutchin and Claudine’s infant daughter Adelaide went to pick up Watson’s car from a local repair shop. Before leaving the shop, Watson swallowed two pills she removed from a prescribed bottle in her purse. While approaching a red light, Watson began showing significant signs of motor function loss in her legs, failed to apply the brakes and drove straight through the intersection, resulting in a collision with another vehicle. Both Watson and Cutchin sustained life ending injuries from the crash, but Adelaide managed to survive virtually unscathed. A year later, Jefferey Cutchin, Claudine’s husband and Adelaide’s father, filed a civil action lawsuit against the Southern District of Indiana as well as filing a complaint with the Department of Insurance against the physicians who prescribed Watson her medication. After the completion of a toxicology report, the medication in question checked out as an opiate, only aiding in Cutchin’s claims. Despite these findings, Indiana’s Seventh Circuit court denied Cutchin’s claims of medical malpractice and negligence as he awaits the opportunity to appeal in 2021.
Disclaimer: All above cases summarized from full case documentation on Justia.