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Mentally Ill Patient's Secret Incarceration and Wrongful Death Cover-up

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Message Mary Neal
YESTERDAY marked the fifth anniversary of my brother's death while under secret arrest. On August 1, 2003, Larry Neal, a mentally ill heart patient, died in Shelby County Jail in Memphis, TN, having been secretly detained there for 18 days until his naked body left the facility in a body bag. Some time later, I learned that my brother’s death in government custody is not unusual for chronic mental patients in America. In fact, what happened to Larry is treated with such nonchalance by authorities that his family is denied any explanation or investigation regarding his secret arrest and death. See

Shelby County is the same metropolitan area made famous recently for the police beating of a transgender detainee in the jail's holding area.  Somehow, the video of two Memphis police officer's brutality against Duanna Johnson's made it past the county's shield of secrecy and was viewed throughout the world on television and the Internet:

News reports indicated that Shelby County officials were furious about the release of the video of Ms. Johnson's beating and took steps to uncover how it happened.

Secrecy remains a top priority in the Memphis Police Department, apparently.  In February, a
Memphis blogger, Thaddeus Matthews, faced legal problems after he refused to name his source within the Memphis Police Department whom he referred to in his blogs as "Leaker."  A news report stated, "Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons launched an intense investigation into the leak, and there are murmurs that Matthews may be subpoenaed to reveal his source."  Despite the fact that Thaddeus Matthews is known for his fearless reporting on sensitive matters regarding the MPD, even Mr. Matthews refuses (is afraid?) to report anything regarding Larry Neal's secret death.  See more about the blogger's fight to keep his MPD sources secret at this link:

Larry's family expected full disclosure about his euthanasia during the family’s wrongful death and negligence lawsuits against Shelby County Jail, the State of Tennessee, and Larry’s final care home. Those lawsuits were to be filed by the Memphis office of The (Johnny) Cochran Firm, which contracted to represent Larry’s family immediately following his death. As Larry’s elderly mother tearfully signed contract with The Cochran Firm, however, she had no idea that the managing partner in that law office was the longest-standing member of the Shelby County Commission, the entity that owns and operates the jail where her son died. In fact, Julian Bolton, Esq. stepped down from being Chairman of the Shelby County Commission in order to help Johnny Cochran establish the Memphis office of what has become one of the largest plaintiff’s law firms in the nation.

Ten and one-half months after signing contract with Larry’s family, The Cochran Firm finally admitted its undisclosed conflict of interest and inactivity on behalf of Larry’s family as our wrongful death attorneys. With only six weeks remaining on Tennessee’s 12‑month statute of limitation to file wrongful death civil actions, Larry’s family was unable to locate another law firm to represent them on a contingency fee basis due to the shortness of time remaining to investigate and prepare their case, and the family lacked the resources to pay an attorney outright.

There is a shroud of secrecy surrounding Larry’s demise that was protected by our lawyers,
Shelby County officials, and others. Even the United States Justice Department, which was in oversight of Shelby County Jail following a suit by the U.S.A.
for many violations of inmates' civil rights, refuses to investigate Larry's secret arrest and death while in government custody. To date, neither the jail nor Tennessee officials have given any excuse, apology, or explanation as to how Larry died, why his missing person report was ignored by jailers, or why Shelby County Jail denied to Larry's social worker and family that he was in custody. We searched for Larry for weeks, praying that he would be found in time to administer his vital psychiatric and heart medications.

Desperate for answers about Larry’s death and indignant about The Cochran Firm’s fraud, Larry’s mother and sister filed a lawsuit against their attorneys for fraud. The lawsuit which was served suit to The Cochran Firm’s advertised
Atlanta, Georgia office was filed on August 1, 2005, exactly one year after that law firm made Larry’s family miss the opportunity to hold Shelby County accountable for Larry’s suffering and death under secret arrest. What do unethical attorneys do when caught red-handed in client fraud? The widely advertised Atlanta office of Cochran Firm simply denied that it was any part of The Cochran Firm. (Neals v. The Cochran Firm, Georgia Superior Court of Fulton County
, Civil Action No. 2005-CV-104215)

That defense seemed so ridiculous to my family that we laughed every time we saw a Cochran Firm commercial on television advertising its Atlanta office. I laughed as I rode the MARTA train to and from work each day and saw The Cochran Firm’s
office advertised on Rapid Rail Television. “Is that the best they can offer in their defense for defrauding us – claim nonexistence?” we asked. Surprisingly, Georgia Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob dismissed our lawsuit on that basis in May 2006, and yet, the commercials kept rolling along. Larry’s suffering and death, his family’s pain, and our lawsuit against fraudulent attorneys who pretended to represent the family while actually working for our defendants were apparently inconsequential.

After declaring its non-existence in court, The Cochran Firm continues advertising the
Atlanta office and opening new ones across the nation. It continues to represent defendants in high-profile cases like the wrongful death of Kathryn Johnston, the 92-year-old Atlanta
woman who was killed by police in a home invasion in November 2006. Julian Bolton was promoted to the position of Treasurer for the Shelby County Commission, and later he became its Chairman. Apparently, when mainstream media elects to join a conspiracy of silence regarding news events through censorship, those events are considered not to have occurred. Julian Bolton certainly showed his lack of concern about public disclosure by running for Congress in 2006.

No mainstream newspaper or television station ever reported about any of my family’s trials, perhaps because the Neals are unable to purchase advertising from them, like The Cochran Firm.  The Neal family is thankful for independent news sites on the Internet and video sites like You Tube. We have not yet used You Tube, but may release our video appeal for help in the future.

Georgians continue to go to The Cochran Firm’s advertised Atlanta office with their legal matters. How can we warn them that according to a court order issued by Judge Wendy Shoob, the law firm does not exist under its advertised identity?  Neither is it registered with Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office as the firm it represented itself to be in court:  Cochran, Cherry, Givens, Smith & Sistrunk, P.C. The "P.C." means professional corporation, and that designation requires registration with the state.  Wouldn't lawyers know that?

The Neals' efforts to warn other consumers seeking legal representation seem to have been thwarted by authorities. 
The Atlanta Better Business Bureau refused to take a complaint from the Neals against The Cochran Firm. The Urban League ignored our correspondence. When
U.S. agencies like the FCC and FTC are uninterested in warning consumers about a law firm’s fraudulent business practices, where do citizens turn for help to warn others? (FTC Ref No. 10807359)  After being deceived by our attorneys, denied justice by Georgia State Court, and failed by the agencies created to protect consumers, Larry’s family undertook reporting their own justice quest via the Internet and U.S. Mail.  This was necessary due to an apparent blackout of these news events in mainstream media.  

Subsequently, Atlanta's rapid rail system (MARTA) stopped advertising the so-called Atlanta office of The Cochran Firm, and the often-run television commercials finally seemed to end after the Neals threatened to sue the major networks for false advertising of a law office that had succeeded in presenting in Georgia State Court that such advertisements calling it the Atlanta office of The (Johnny) Cochran Firm were untrue.  

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Founder and director of Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill ("AIMI"), an advocacy agency established in 2007 to (a) decriminalize mental illness in America; (b) remove the stigma associated with mental illness; (c) increase accessibility to (more...)
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