KANSAS CITY — Anne Danaher stands amid a mountain of file boxes crammed with court documents, police reports, videotapes and receipts.
“For more than nine years,” she says, gesturing toward the cardboard stacks, “this was my life.”
Danaher, a soft-spoken Kansas City woman with two years of college and no legal experience, helped gain the release in 2003 of a convicted killer who had spent 25 years behind bars in Iowa.
She methodically tracked down evidence that pointed to another suspect, racking up thousands of dollars in expenses and taking on three jobs at a time before the prisoner, Terry Harrington, was set free.
Now Harrington has won a $7 million settlement — and Danaher hasn’t received a dime.
Not that she wants to make money, Danaher said, but she would like her expenses covered, and she says Harrington had promised to share any settlement he received.
Mary Kennedy, an Iowa lawyer who helped with Harrington’s case, thinks Danaher deserves it.
“He’d most certainly still be in prison if not for Anne,” Kennedy said. “She gave up the best years of her life for this. He got so much money. What would it hurt to give her some?”
Harrington declined repeated requests to talk on the record about the case.
One of his attorneys, J. Douglas McCalla, who is with a high-profile firm handling Harrington’s lawsuit, said he couldn’t discuss the issue of why Danaher had not been reimbursed.
“As I understand the story, I think that Anne was there and did help Terry,” McCalla said. “But whether or not he would have succeeded in his release without her help, I don’t know.”
None of Danaher’s legal odyssey would have occurred if she hadn’t taken a job cutting hair behind bars.
Raised in Kansas City in a large Catholic family, Danaher, 54, was the eighth of 16 children. (A brother, Paul, is a former Kansas City Councilman.)
“I grew up hearing the Gospel on Sunday, saying we should care for the sick and visit those who are in prison,” she said.
In 1993, she took a job as a barber at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.
“The first day, I cut 26 heads of hair,” Danaher said. “It changed my life. I wanted to sow seeds of God’s love in their lives.”
After the first time Danaher cut Harrington’s hair, she ran into his family in the prison parking lot. “They told me he’d been framed,” she said.
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