For most people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, the most pressing concern is to have their conviction vacated so that they can be freed from prison or otherwise avoid a sentence. However, in some cases that doesn’t go far enough. Sometimes it can be so obvious that police acted unjustly and so much of a person’s life can be lost to a wrongful conviction that the only recourse is to pursue a civil lawsuit for violation of civil rights, as a recent case illustrates.
Fifteen Years in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit
Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune ran an article about a Waukegan man who was found guilty in 1999 for the murder of a mentally disabled Kane County woman. At the time, the man admitted to police that he beat the woman before dumping her body in a woman area, but forensic evidence that came to light last year showed that the woman had lightly been abused for weeks before she died, and her injuries were not consistent with how the man killed her. The defendant had no prior relationship with the woman.
In fact, the defendant’s “confession” was an egregious case of police misconduct. Police officers refused his requests for an attorney to be present during his interrogation, and repeatedly threatened him until he confessed to a version of the crime that they fabricated. Other witnesses in the case claim that they were similarly intimidated by police to cook up a false version of events.
Last year, the man was released from prison, and Lake County has issued him a certificate of innocence. That has paved the way for him to file a civil lawsuit in federal court against the officers involved in his case on the grounds that they violated his civil rights.
The case illustrates serious questions about how police in both Waukegan and Chicago handle felony cases The Chicago Tribune reported that defendants in six major felony cases in Waukegan have been exonerated since 2010 after forensic evidence came to light proving their innocence. The city has paid out more than $27 million to resolve civil rights cases involving police misconduct since 2006. And Waukegan is second only to Chicago when it comes to wrongful convictions.
But the most troubling allegation in the Waukegan case is how widespread police misconduct may have been there. In his lawsuit, the newly exonerated man claims that it was a common practice for police at the department to coerce confessions and fabricate evidence, and in many cases police officers were promoted for that conduct.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Attorney
If police have used faulty evidence to convict you of a crime that you didn’t commit it, you don’t have to accept this unjust verdict. Illinois law allows several paths to clear your name in appellate court. And in addition to winning your freedom, you may also be able to pursue a lawsuit against the police for violating your civil rights. To discuss how to file an appeal and pursuing a civil rights lawsuit, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.