Erica Holzer, partner in Maslon's Litigation Group, is featured in a KARE 11 report and podcast for her pro bono work on behalf of the Innocence Project that contributed to Terry Olson’s release from prison.
Erica worked with former Maslon Partner David Schultz, who is now a U.S. magistrate judge, to help secure the release of Terry Olson after he spent more than 10 years in prison. In 2007, Olson was convicted of the 1979 murder of Jeff Hammill. The evidence against Olson consisted primarily of the coerced confession of a mentally ill man who later recanted.
Thanks to the work of Maslon and the Innocence Project, Olson was released in 2016. However, the work to ensure justice for him was not over: Terry wanted the slate wiped clean—he had maintained his innocence from the beginning, but he accepted a deal to gain his release, which included keeping his conviction intact. This precluded him from seeking civil damages for his wrongful incarceration under something called the Heck doctrine. Erica and Terry wanted to change this, and took his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. They argued that the Heck doctrine as applied in this context is unconstitutional. They also argued that Terry’s agreement not to sue the state was unenforceable.
Erica told KARE 11: "A lot of these folks who enter these deals, they get their freedom in exchange for whatever they agree to, and typically their agreement to not sue the prosecutor or the county or state who is responsible for their incarceration in the first place," she said. "And our position is that those agreements not to sue are invalid, and that the folks who are in most cases agreeing to those plea deals are doing so essentially under duress, under a veil of coercion, such that the terms of those agreements are unenforceable." The Supreme Court declined to review their petition.
The KARE 11 story is available here. Listen to the podcast episode here.
Erica represents clients in complex commercial disputes primarily in the areas of tort and product liability, consumer fraud, business torts, and breach of contract actions. Her product liability defense work spans many industries, with particular experience in FDA-approved medical devices, representing a major medical device manufacturer in federal and state courts throughout the country. She has also developed specialized experience providing advice and compliance support to government contractors and companies on public law issues, particularly state and federal open records laws, including the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and the federal Freedom of Information Act. Erica is also an experienced appellate attorney. She has argued before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and has authored, co-authored, and edited dozens of appellate briefs. She is frequently sought out to provide advice on appeals in the 8th Circuit and the appellate courts of Minnesota. Erica is co-author of the leading treatise on Minnesota appellate law, and authors a chapter in the 8th Circuit Appellate Practice Manual. She also serves as a member of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Minnesota Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure, as chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Appellate Practice Section, and as a board member of the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society.
For more information on the Olson case, see this article.