[ Shelby Co. Jail ]
[ The Cochran Firm ]
[ U.S. Dept. of Justice ]
[ Fulton Co. Sup. Court ]
[ The Bar & DeKalb Police ]
[ Media Blackout ]
[ Unacceptable Solutions ]
[ Looking Back ]
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The Wrongful Death of Larry Neal
The Secret Death of a Mentally Ill Heart Patient in a
Tennessee Jail and the Subsequent Cover-Up

The Cochran Firm
Fraud / Undisclosed Conflict of Interest / Deliberate Malpractice

Immediately after notification of Larry’s death on August 1, 2003, his family contracted with The Cochran Firm to file a wrongful death action against Shelby County Jail and negligence suits against the State of Tennessee and Larry’s final care home. The Cochran Firm did not reveal to its clients the fact that the firm’s Managing Partner of the Memphis office, Julian Bolton, Esq. was a 20+year member of the Shelby County Commission, which is the entity that owns and operates the jail where Larry died. The Cochran Firm used its position as our attorneys to shield Shelby County Jail from our lawsuit by accepting our case and allowing it to languish on its shelves while the statute ran. After successfully preventing our suit against Shelby County, Bolton was promoted to the position of Treasurer of the Board of Commissioners, and then to Chairman. Ironically, Julian Bolton is/was also a valued member on the Midtown Board of Mental Health. [See Ex. 3 - Contract.]

The Cochran Firm lied to clients before contract, stating that the firm’s conflict check resulted in no impediments to their representation. This firm lied to the Neals in writing after contract regarding a fictitious and nonexistent investigation and discovery process it was conducting and cautioned us not to discuss the Larry’s jail death with anyone, because that law firm would handle everything. We were told before signing contract that The Cochran Firm’s Atlanta, Georgia office and Memphis, Tennessee office would work together to get justice for my family (My mother and I are Atlanta area residents). But, instead of behaving as the Neals’ attorneys, The Cochran Firm merely held Larry’s wrongful death case inactive for nearly 11 months while the statute of limitations ran (12 months in Tennessee). By the time the Neals found out about The Cochran Firm’s ties to their defendant and the law firm’s lies about a nonexistent discovery process, it was too late for another law firm to accept our case on a contingent fee basis. (The poor in America suffer many injustices for the lack of affordable legal counsel.) Later, The Cochran Firm’s attorney assigned to our case, David McLaughlin, lied to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility during its investigation of the Neals’ malpractice allegations.

The Neals filed suit pro se for fraud against The Cochran Firm, having their Complaint served to the law firm’s “Atlanta office,” which was the office the Neals originally contacted and arranged for legal representation on August 1, 2003, immediately following Larry’s death. [See Ex. 4 – Complaint] This Atlanta law office answered our suit in the name of Cochran Cherry Givens Smith & Sistrunk, P.C. (“CCGSS”) and claimed in its discovery responses not to be The Cochran Firm (as it had represented to the Neals prior to contract signing and contrary to much public advertising), and it denied any affiliation whatsoever with other Cochran Firm offices. [See Ex. 5 - CCGSS Response to Interrogatories.][See Ex. 6 - Cochran Firm Web Pages.] & [See Ex. 6a - More Cochran Firm Web Pages.] Instead, it claimed before the court to be a law firm completely “owned and operated within the State of Georgia.” The Georgia Secretary of State’s office, however, issued a report that no such entity as Cochran Cherry Givens Smith & Sistrunk, P.C. was registered with the State of Georgia. [See Ex. 7 – GA Sec. of State Search.] Further investigation and search of public records revealed no firm called Cochran Cherry Givens Smith & Sistrunk, P.C. registered with the City of Atlanta or as a d/b/a with the Fulton County Superior Court. So this law office, well known and advertised as the Atlanta office of The Cochran Firm, presented itself to the court as being a completely disinterested third party but was nevertheless allowed to answer our complaint against The Cochran Firm and to have our suit dismissed by Georgia Superior Court in May 2006.

Shelby County Jail
Shelby County Government
Shelby County Attorney

In response to my inquiry, the County Attorney declared “We did nothing wrong,” but rendered no explanation or report regarding Larry’s incarceration and death in jail. [See Ex. 8 – Letter from Brian L. Kuhn, Shelby County Attorney, dated 8/17/06.]

Shelby County Coroner’s Office

The coroner’s office faxed the Neals a poor copy of Larry’s autopsy drawings with sketchy narrative descriptions, but lacking a full narrative report. When asked for a detailed autopsy report and a coroner’s investigative report, the Coroner’s office replied that there were no further reports on Larry’s death. According to the autopsy, Larry died of a heart attack. However, the autopsy report did not explain the fresh head injury on Larry’s body, and Larry’s family does not consider the Shelby County Coroner’s office a credible resource.

Larry’s autopsy was performed by the office of Shelby County’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. O. C. Smith. This same man was later indicted for faking his own kidnapping after placing a note on his person and accusing himself of lying in favor of Memphis police in a capital murder case. The accused in this case was facing a death sentence, having maintained throughout his trial that it was a policeman who shot the policeman he was accused of killing. [See Ex. 9 - Smith Indictment.]

[...The Department of Justice]