Lawsuit settled in 'Precious Doe' case

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Updated: 2/28/2013 3:17 pm Published: 2/28/2013 3:16 pm

The parties to a federal lawsuit filed from the 2001 killing of the child known as “Precious Doe” announced a settlement.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections, OU Medical Center and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services have agreed to adopt new procedures to ensure babies born to mothers in prison will be referred to DHS to plan for the safe placement of the newborn before the baby leaves the hospital.

Erica Michelle Marie Green was born in May 1997 at the University of Oklahoma Medical
Center to a mother incarcerated in an Oklahoma prison. Erica’s biological father, Larry Green, was also incarcerated. At the time of her birth, there were no procedures in place for either DOC or OU Medical Center to provide notification to DHS to connect with the incarcerated mother to assist in planning for the safe placement of the newborn.

After Erica was born, she was given to a family acquaintance. The family friend later gave Erica to her mother, Michelle Johnson, after Johnson was released from prison. Erica became known as “Precious Doe” after Johnson’s then-boyfriend Harrell Johnson murdered three-year old Erica and buried her dismembered body in a park in Kansas City. Michelle and Harrell Johnson were convicted for Erica’s murder and are still in prison.

Under the settlement agreement, DOC has agreed to notify DHS before a baby is born to an incarcerated mother. DHS will then be able to interact with the incarcerated mother regarding placement planning for the newborn, including, when the circumstances warrant, supervision of the placement and reunification of the child with the mother. DHS will refer to the new procedures as “Erica’s Rule.”

The suit was brought by Erica’s father, Larry Green. Green’s lawyers, Paul DeMuro and
Sarah Poston, of Frederic Dorwart Lawyers, praised the settlement.

“We are grateful that the agencies involved were willing to adopt new policies that, hopefully, will ensure babies of incarcerated mothers are placed in a safe environment. Now, DHS will interact with incarcerated mothers before the newborn leaves the hospital. That was the primary goal of this lawsuit. It is particularly meaningful to Mr. Green and his family that DHS will refer to the new policies as “Erica’s Rule.”

The settlement also included an undisclosed monetary payment to Green.

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