USA - North Carolina. Bar Suspends License of Lawyer Who Defrauded Death-Row Exonerees
|USA - Henry McCollum and Leon Brown (NC)
March 29, 2021:
Bar Suspends License of Lawyer Who Defrauded Death-Row Exonerees
The North Carolina state bar has suspended the law license of a lawyer whose predatory representation of two intellectually disabled death-row exonerees defrauded them of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After a multi-day disciplinary hearing beginning March 15, 2021, a three-member panel of the North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Commission suspended Patrick Megaro’s license to practice law in the state for five years. The panel also ordered Megaro to repay half-brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown $250,000 in fees he had charged them in connection with their application for compensation for their wrongful convictions for the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.
The men — whose IQs in the 50s place them in the bottom third of a percent of the population in intellectual functioning — were sentenced to death after falsely confessing to the murder during hours of coercive police interrogations conducted without counsel or their parents being present. McCollum was 19 years old at the time and Brown was 15. Both were sentenced to death.
The brothers were exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2014 after DNA evidence proved their innocence. McCollum had spent nearly 31 years on death row. Brown, whose death sentence was overturned after nine years on death row, was serving a life sentence.
Megaro became McCollum’s and Brown’s lawyer in March 2015, after two women who claimed to be advocating on behalf of the brothers persuaded them to fire the lawyers who had already prepared and filed their compensation applications and replace them with Megaro’s law firm. The brothers received the statutorily mandated compensation awards of $750,000, but Megaro — who the complaint says did virtually no work on their compensation case — took $250,000 in fees from each man. Within seven months, McCollum was out of money and taking out predatory loans with 19% interest compounded every 6 months. Megaro also negotiated a proposed settlement of the brothers’ wrongful prosecution lawsuit in which he was to receive $400,000 of a $1 million payment.
McCollum’s and Brown’s intellectual disability, the bar complaint argued, made them especially vulnerable to exploitation by Megaro.
McCollum and Brown received new lawyers in 2018 who are representing them without charge. A federal civil rights lawsuit filed on the brothers’ behalf is expected to go to trial later this year.
Megaro is still licensed to practice law in Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.
https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/news/north-carolina-bar-suspends-license-of-lawyer-who-defrauded-death-row-exonerees (Source: DPIC, 29/03/2021)