Wrongful Convictions & Police Misconduct

Civil Litigation

As our client James Owens, who spent 21 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, told us, “No amount of money can give me back the time I lost.” No one can return those years, but Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s talented, dedicated, and experienced civil rights attorneys overcame a vigorous defense, showed that homicide detectives had concealed exculpatory evidence, and obtained a $9 million settlement – a modest measure of justice that allows Mr. Owens to move on with his life.

We have obtained substantial verdicts and settlements for numerous clients who were arrested without probable cause or convicted of crimes they did not commit. We doggedly investigate misconduct by the police, often by securing records and interviewing witnesses from cases that are decades old. Our attorneys have traveled across the country to track down witnesses to build the best possible case for our clients.

Our determination pays off. In many of these cases, Brown, Goldstein & Levy proved that police officers falsified or concealed evidence and coerced witnesses. We have also obtained millions of dollars for clients and the families of those who have suffered misconduct at the hands of police officers and sheriffs, including assault and death.

These are challenging cases, but our attorneys are up to the challenge.  Our lawyers bring specialized knowledge and experience to these cases from their backgrounds litigating these cases nationwide — not only at Brown, Goldstein & Levy, but also at the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. We staff these cases with a team of highly credentialed lawyers able to try these cases in federal or state court.

Perhaps most importantly, Brown, Goldstein & Levy creates a family-like bond with our clients, which constantly motivates us, deepens our knowledge of our clients’ stories, and strengthens the passion and will necessary to win them the compensation they deserve.

Our record speaks for itself.  In the wake of the 2016 report by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division finding that Baltimore police officers engaged in systemic constitutional violations, Brown, Goldstein & Levy has recovered more money than any other law firm in the country for those wrongfully convicted at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department. We filed an amicus brief with the Maryland Court of Appeals in a case that led to a decision establishing that the Baltimore Police Department can be held responsible for the abuses of the Gun Trace Task Force, substantially increasing the likelihood that victims will be able to recover compensation.

Our firm currently represents three men known as the “Harlem Park Three.” With the plaintiffs having served 108 combined years in wrongful incarceration, this triple exoneration is the largest wrongful conviction case in American history.

The National Law Journal and Elite Lawyers selected BGL as the nation’s “Civil Rights Law Firm of the Year” for 2018. Our partners are recognized as the best by Best Lawyers and Super LawyersBest Lawyersawarded BGL’s Civil Rights practice with its highest ranking and cited one of its lawyers as the Civil Rights “Lawyer of the Year.” Our partners are members of highly selective, invitation-only organizations, such as the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Commitment to Exonerees

We not only represent exonerees in court with their wrongful conviction cases, but also we assist our exonerees with their reentry into society pro bono. We engage in this holistic lawyering by connecting exonerees with various services as they re-enter society. Those services include employment opportunities, mental health treatment, and obtaining compensation for wrongful conviction from state agencies—this compensation is separate from an exoneree’s civil rights lawsuit.

Brown, Goldstein & Levy has been particularly successful in obtaining such compensation for its Maryland exonerees.  Between 2019 and 2020, Brown, Goldstein & Levy helped five of exonerees secure millions of dollars in compensation from the Maryland Board of Public Works—the first payouts of their kind from the Board in 15 years. Brown, Goldstein & Levy led a coalition of attorneys, activists, journalists, and thought leaders to advocate for exonerees, some of whom had been waiting nearly two years for compensation.

In October 2019, the Board approved payments in excess of $9 million to five wrongly convicted Marylanders, two of whom were Brown, Goldstein & Levy clients. At the time of the vote, the Maryland State Treasurer acknowledged that the Board would not have acted without Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s perseverance.

Representative Cases

  • Obtained over $13 million from the State of Maryland for five wrongfully convicted men, convincing the Maryland Board of Public Works to make such awards for the first time in 15 years (2020).

  • Represent the “Harlem Park Three.” At 108 combined years of wrongful incarceration, the triple exoneration of these three men is the largest wrongful conviction case in American history (2020–present).

  • Estate of Malcom Bryant v. Baltimore Police Department – Represent the sons of the late Malcolm Bryant, who was wrongfully arrested and convicted for a murder he did not commit and spent nearly 18 years in prison until his exoneration by DNA evidence. 2020 WL 673571 (D. Md. Feb. 10, 2020).

  • Jerome Johnson v. Baltimore Police Department – Represent Jerome Johnson, a man wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 30 years after the Baltimore police suppressed evidence of his innocence in order to implicate him in a murder he did not commit. 2020 WL 1169739 (D. Md. Mar. 10, 2020).

  • Umar Burley v. Baltimore Police Department. – Represent two men who were wrongfully imprisoned for a combined 11 years because plainclothes officers of the Baltimore Police Department (some of whom later joined the Gun Trace Task Force) planted heroin in their car. 422 F. Supp. 3d 986 (D. Md. 2019).

  • James Owens v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore – Obtained $9 million settlement on behalf of a man who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 21 years after Baltimore homicide detectives concealed exculpatory evidence. 767 F.3d 379 (4th Cir. 2014)

  • The Estate of Robert Ethan Saylor v. Regal Cinemas, Inc. – Obtained $1.9 million settlement on behalf of the parents of a young man with Down syndrome who was killed by deputy sheriffs who dragged him from a movie theater for the “crime” of wanting to watch a movie a second time without buying a second ticket. Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s litigation of this case included successfully defeating the officer defendants’ Fourth Circuit appeal of the district court’s denial of qualified immunity. 2016 WL 4721254 (D. Md. Sept. 9, 2016), aff’d sub nom. Estate of Saylor v. Rochford, 698 F. App’x 72 (4th Cir. 2017).

  • Leaford Walker v. Prince George’s County – Obtained $425,000 settlement on behalf of a man who was assaulted and arrested by three Prince George’s County police officers.

  • Branden Owens v. Officer 666 – Won jury verdict and settlement on behalf of a man who was assaulted and wrongfully arrested in response to asking a Baltimore police officer for his badge number.

  • KC v. Police Officers – Obtained large settlement for a pregnant woman who was falsely arrested for shoplifting and beaten by a Prince George’s County police officer, causing premature birth of her child.

Awards

  • American College of Trial Lawyers.
  • Ranked Tier 1 in Baltimore by Best Lawyers and U.S. News & World Report for Civil Rights Law.
  • Civil Rights Law Firm of the Year, The National Law Journal Elite Trial Lawyers (2018).