On October 27, 2011 the Philadelphia Inquirer’s John P. Martin reported on the unlawful incarceration of a witness by an Assistant District Attorney.
The witness, Nicole Schneyder, was held in prison to ensure her testimony in a 2005 murder trial, but, when the trial was postponed, Assistant D.A. Gina Maisto Smith left Schneyder in jail for 54 days, ostensibly to make sure she would be available to testify, and that she, the D.A., would know where her star witness was located.
Martin reports that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has agreed to pay a $255,000 settlement to Schneyder following an appeals court ruling during which judges referred to the Assistant D.A.’s conduct as “‘outrageous.”
And indeed the imprisonment of an innocent witness for an extended period of time is in violation of rights granted in the 4th amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Furthermore, Schneyder’s 8th amendment rights—which protect against excessive bail ( and more specifically, against cruel and unusual punishment)—were violated when her bail was set at $300,000, a sum of money the witness could not have hoped to pay. Remember, Schneyder was a witness. She was never an accused!
We at Carpey Law applaud John P. Martin for his coverage of this story. Schneyder’s civil rights are the type that personal injury attorneys like Stuart A. Carpey fight to protect all the time. When one’s civil rights are violated, like in this story, it very well may mean the government has gone too far, and a lawsuit for money damages against the government representative who violated that person’s rights is available. These are difficult cases, but as this story shows, they can be won.
To read the full story, “Philadelphia D.A. agrees to pay $255,000 to witness held for weeks,” please go here.