Two months after Lavare Gould, 19, was killed in 2008, Milwaukee police had no suspect or leads. Then, a man who was arrested in an unrelated case claimed to have information about Gould’s case. The information was conflicting, but it implicated Ladarious Marshall, who was 16 at the time, and others.
That was enough for Milwaukee police to latch on to Ladarious and interrogate him as if they knew he was guilty. Even though he was a juvenile with a learning disability, they isolated him for hours. They badgered him. They lied to him. They continued to interrogate him despite the fact that he repeatedly said he wanted to remain silent. Ultimately, they threatened him with life in prison.
They charged Ladarious with first-degree, intentional homicide in adult court. Before trial, Ladarious’s lawyer argued that his constitutional rights had been violated and all the evidence gathered must be suppressed. The trial judge refused.
Ladarious was faced with a stark choice. Continue to insist on his innocence and risk life in prison, or plead guilty to a lesser offense and get 20 years. The 16-year-old chose to plead guilty.
He didn’t give up, though. He continued to appeal his conviction, although those appeals fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, he was sent to the Green Bay Correctional Institute, an adult prison that is plagued by violence, obsolete infrastructure, overcrowding and understaffing. Ladarious lived in constant fear of being attacked by the older prisoners.
The case turns toward justice
Finally, in 2020 an appellate court accepted Ladarious’s writ of habeas corpus, which is a kind of appeal alleging significant constitutional rights violations. The judge ruled that Milwaukee police detectives had indeed violated Ladarious’s rights when they continued to interrogate him after he had repeatedly said he wanted to remain silent.
In response to this ruling, prosecutors asked that Ladarious’s case be dismissed and that his conviction and sentence be vacated. There was, after all, no evidence that Ladarious killed anyone.
Now, Ladarious has sued Milwaukee, claiming that his Fifth Amendment rights to a lawyer and to remain silent were violated, along with his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Although the lawsuit doesn’t say how much he expects in damages, a prior notice of claim form said $12 million. That’s $1 million for each year Ladarious spent in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.