12 Years Behind Bars, Now Released

Milwaukee DA will not retry Ladarius Marshall after federal judge finds his constitutional rights violated at age 16.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jul 21st, 2020 04:43 pm
Green Bay Correctional Institution. Photo from the Department of Corrections.

Green Bay Correctional Institution. Photo from the Department of Corrections.

State prosecutors will not retry a a man who spent 12 years behind bars before a federal judge found police so badly violated his constitutional rights that he should be freed or given a new trial.

Ladarius Marshall, 16 when he was arrested and now 28, will be released from the Green Bay Correctional Institution, said Matthew Pinix, his lawyer.

​Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Wall last week signed an order vacating Marshall’s conviction.

“The state’s choice not to prosecute Mr. Marshall is an extraordinary result,” Pinix said. “I am glad to see this long road finally end for Mr. Marshall. He’ll soon walk out of prison a free man. But that result did not happen soon enough. Mr. Marshall has been fighting for his freedom for almost half his life.”

Marshall likely will not be eligible for assistance from the Department of Corrections that other incarcerated people returning to the community might get, Pinix said. Nor is he likely eligible for the $25,000 maximum compensation the state provides to those wrongfully convicted.

“I am tremendously happy with the state’s choice to put an end to its prosecution,” Pinix said. “Now Mr. Marshall deserves to somehow be compensated for the last twelve years of his life.”

U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in April ruled that police detectives’ persistent questioning of Marshall even after he said he did not want to talk violated his rights.  Marshall, who had cognitive deficiencies, was held by police in interrogation rooms from about 7:30 a.m. to about 10:30 p.m.

“Absent greater maturity and a much stronger educational background than Marshall had, it is difficult to imagine how he could have more clearly conveyed to the detectives that he did not want to talk to them….” Griesbach wrote.

Marshall eventually told police he was present when Lavare Gould was was fatally shot on June 16, 2008, but denied being the shooter.

Marshall eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless homicide with the use of a dangerous weapon, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18. He was sentenced in May, 2010, to 20 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision.

Marshall’s trial lawyer, now-Circuit-Judge Jean Kies, argued that Marshall’s statements should be suppressed, but lost. Marshall appealed his case twice, but the Court of Appeals ruled against him both times and the State Supreme Court twice declined to intervene, according to online court records.

“Seven Wisconsin judges denied him relief without fully analyzing the facts of how the police obtained his statement,” Pinix said. “Justice had to wait for more than a decade until a federal judge actually read the transcripts and saw that police officers illegally refused to honor Mr. Marshall’s rights. ”

By granting the writ of habeas corpus,  Griesbach found that state court decisions in the case were “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.”

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, in a Circuit Court document seeking dismissal of the case, said the State Department of Justice and the DA’s office jointly decided not to retry Marshall.

“Based upon a review of the facts developed during the investigation of the homicide of Lavare Gould, the state has decided not to retry Ladarius Marshall for this homicide,” Assistant District Attorney Paul Tiffin wrote.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.”

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