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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

Fulton County GA Superior Court

Hattie Neal and Mary Neal v. The Cochran Firm (Civil Action No. 2005CV104215 – filed 8/1/05 -- Fraud suit brought pro se against The Cochran Firm)

Judge Wendy Shoob dismissed our case against The Cochran Firm on May 3, 2006, with her Order citing three reasons:

  1. The judge decided that the law office that presented itself to Larry’s family as being The Cochran Firm and which is widely advertised as being the Atlanta office of The Cochran Firm is in fact not The Cochran Firm. Meanwhile, the law office at 127 Peachtree Street continued to advertise its legal services as The Cochran Firm via rapid transit system television commercials, network television commercials, the Internet, etc. [See Ex. 6 and 6a – Internet Ads.]

  2. Judge Shoob’s order dismissed our suit stating that Plaintiffs did not specifically allege fraud in their Complaint. You will note on the attached Complaint that (1) FRAUD is clearly listed as the cause of action on the court’s filing form completed by the Neals to initiate the court action; (2) throughout their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege fraud against The Cochran Firm; and (3) in the conclusion of their Complaint, Plaintiffs specifically asked for punitive damages for The Cochran Firm’s fraud against Plaintiffs. (See Plaintiff’s Complaint, p. 15, ¶ 113(b); and see the Complaint Filing Form.)

  3. Finally, Judge Shoob’s order stated that Plaintiffs did not respond timely to CCGSS’s Motion to Dismiss. Frankly, the Neals did not know that they had to respond to a pleading supposedly filed by some firm which claimed not to be The Cochran Firm at all, which claimed to have no knowledge of the events that gave rise to our suit, which claimed to have absolutely no attorney/client relationship to the Neals, but claimed instead to be a completely disinterested third party. [See Ex. 15 - Order.]

    Apparently, using an alias to dodge legal proceedings can be effective. In June 2007, I asked the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) about whether The Cochran Firm is guilty of perjury in Georgia Superior Court or whether it is guilty of false advertising. The FTC notified me that it has opened a file on this. (FTC Ref No. 10807359.)

Surprisingly, when the discovery period ended and it was time for the court to set a trial date, it was reported to the Neals that the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office had “lost” certain pleadings from the court’s file. [See Ex. 16 – Lt re: Lost Pleadings.] As a legal secretary for over a decade in Georgia, I have filed hundreds of pleadings with Fulton County Superior Court and worked alongside countless other legal secretaries, yet this is the only instance I ever heard of this court losing pleadings from its file, so this must be a rare occurrence. Furthermore, only two weeks prior to receiving the notification of “lost” pleadings, I had personally reviewed our court file under the watchful eye of a Superior Court clerk, and found the file to be in order. Documents were secured in a top-hole punch file folder, ordered with the earliest dates at the bottom. Many other documents had to be removed from our court file and then replaced for one to access and “lose” the defendant’s pleadings, one of which was the Motion to Dismiss, which CCGSS filed with the court eight months prior to Judge Shoob’s dismissal.

With Judge Shoob’s dismissal of our suit, Larry’s family was denied the opportunity of having a jury trial, and those responsible for Larry’s death and the subsequent cover-up were given yet another reprieve from complete public disclosure regarding the circumstances of Larry’s incarceration and death.

The selection of a Fulton County Superior Court judge for any given case is supposed to be by a random lottery process. However, Judge Shoob is likely the only judge on a Georgia Superior Court who ever presided over another case involving allegations of wrongful death against Memphis, Tennessee police. The Internet reports that in a case assigned to Judge Shoob through a change of venue several years ago, she ruled favorably for Memphis police regarding the admissibility of certain key evidence. Major coincidence? By this time, we understood that Larry’s family was unlikely to get any opportunity to have a fair hearing against The Cochran Firm in open court, perhaps even if we appealed to a higher court or filed against the firm in another venue. We understood that we would probably only receive more of the same treatment.

A Georgia court recently sentenced two black boys to prison for 10 years for killing a puppy. Even that dead dog got his day in court. Does this mean that the life of a mentally ill man is not equivalent to the worth of a dog?

[...Tennessee Ethics, the Georgia Bar & more]