Attorney: Too many innocent people in jail - WNEM TV 5

Attorney: Too many innocent people in jail

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Attorney Jim Finkelstein Attorney Jim Finkelstein
D. A. Greg Edwards D. A. Greg Edwards

An Albany attorney says he sees too many innocent people locked in the Dougherty County jail, only to have the charges dismissed. Just Wednesday, a federal judge ruled one man's false arrest lawsuit can go forward.

Judge Louis Sands denied the officer's request for immunity from the lawsuit. Attorney Jim Finkelstein says it's important for this case to go forward.

17 year old Richard Hayes was arrested October 22nd, 2009, and charged with aggravated assault and gang participation. The warrant says Hayes was with Southside Bloods gang members when one of them fired shots at a rival gang member.

Hayes was held in the Dougherty County jail until March 9, 2011, when the charges were dropped.

Attorney Jim Finkelstein said, "You are talking about a boy that's never been convicted of anything in his life. He spent a year and four months locked up in jail. From age 17 until he was almost 19."

Judge Louis Sands ruled APD Investigator Charles Flowers had "A total lack of probable cause" to arrest Hayes, and that "malice may be inferred."

District Attorney Greg Edwards said since the Hayes case, his office has worked to speed up prosecutions of people being held in the jail.

Edwards said, "So we've actually made great improvements, but certainly volume is an issue."

Finkelstein hopes this case shines light on the problem of people being held for long periods on charges that are later dropped. "It starts with the city commission recognizing that there is a serious, serious problem with the Investigations Department of the Albany Police Department. And I don't say that lightly."

Finkelstein said that he will try to schedule the lawsuit to go to trial as soon as possible, but work for a settlement. The lawsuit asks for damages of at least one thousand dollars a day for the 16 months Hayes was in jail. Money Finkelstein said could be better spent by city leaders. 

The Albany Police Department told us to contact the City Attorney about this lawsuit ruling. City Attorney Nathan Davis said the city and the Albany Police still feel confident they will prevail at trail.

Officer Charles Flowers is still employed by the Albany Police Department.



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