Posts Tagged ‘Cook County’

Exoneration Anniversary: Jerry Miller!

Taylor Thornton — April 23, 2018 @ 4:47 PM — Comments (0)

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Happy Exoneration Anniversary Jerry Miller!!

On October 1, 1982 Jerry Miller was convicted of rape, robbery, and kidnapping and sentenced to 45 years following the brutal attack of a woman entering her vehicle in a Chicago, Illinois parking garage. Despite his alibi and the victim being unable to accurately identify her attacker, Miller was convicted based primarily on the identification by employees of the parking garage who had seen the true assailant.

In 2005 the Innocence Project took on Miller’s case. A slip worn by the victim at the time containing DNA was tested and Jerry Miller was able to be excluded. At that time, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office joined the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and the Innocence Project in filing a joint motion to vacate Jerry Miller’s conviction. The DNA testing was also able to identify the true attacker when the profile was entered into the FBI offender database. Happy 11 years of freedom Jerry Miller!!

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Innocence Projects Address the Symptoms, Not Causes, of Wrongful Convictions

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 15, 2012 @ 5:58 PM — Comments (3)

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced last week the formation of a review unit for questionable prosecutions. Chicago’s State’s Attorney office has received a lot of criticism for the way that they have handled a number of cases in recent years. According to the Chicago Tribune, “more than a dozen older Cook County prosecutions fell apart after men were wrongfully convicted amid allegations of police torture, coerced confessions or DNA evidence that implicated others in a crime,” since Alvarez was elected in 2008. Alvarez says that the founding of this unit marks a “shift in philosophy” for her office with regard to cases involving prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions.

While no one can argue that measures like this are a positive step for our justice system, they do not come close to solving the problems. The advent of DNA testing and its use in the criminal justice system have changed the legal system tremendously. Beyond a reasonable doubt becomes exceedingly possible when there is DNA evidence to prove it. That said, the technology has changed the system, but the system has not made the necessary changes to take advantage of the technology. As the Innocence Project (NY) points out, “DNA exonerations do not solve the problem, they provide scientific proof of its existence and they illuminate the need for reform.”

Many states are taking steps towards these necessary reforms; the above unit in Chicago, Ohio studies on the death penalty, the Florida Innocence Commission, and DNA database expansion in New York. Inquiries into the system are the first step towards reforming the system but we cannot stop there. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about the Monday meeting of the Florida Innocence Commission for information about how Florida’s Supreme Court task force is moving forward with reforms to help prevent wrongful convictions.

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IL State Attorney Calls DNA Match “Red Herring” & Other News

Alejandra de la Fuente — August 16, 2011 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (1)

Two cases, ten defendants, and 20 years locked up for someone else’s crime. The Chicago Tribune (Steve Mills) reports that, in both of these two 1990s Cook County, Illinois rape/murder cases, DNA evidence existed right from the start to exonerate the accused. However, false confessions that were quickly recanted contributed to wrongful convictions and the false imprisonment of the accused. Many of these men are still behind bars because the office of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is “downplaying” new DNA evidence identifying someone else.

Recently uncovered DNA evidence in both cases pointed to men whose names or records were already in the criminal justice system for similar crimes (including one who was a suspected serial killer).

Prosecutors initially opposed the new round of DNA testing, as well as entering the results in a national law enforcement databank to check for matches. Alvarez dropped the opposition after inquiries from the Tribune, but the office downplayed the importance of any DNA match, saying in court papers it would be a “red herring.” is demanding immediate action by Illinois State officials according to Rashad Robinson at Jack and Jill Politics. We will update information as it becomes available on both cases.

Inmate who claims innocence wonders what he has to do to gain parole. Ron Sylvester in the Wichita Eagle details Ronnie Rhodes predicament after being denied parole for the eighth time for a 1981 murder he claims he did not commit. Evidence that could have been DNA tested has disappeared from Wichita police custody. Despite work done by students at the Washburn School of Law questioning reliability of eyewitness testimony and the quality of Rhodes’s legal representation as well as 20 letters supporting granting him parole, The Prisoner Review Board once again said “no”.

Rhodes who has been in prison for 30 years said, “It’s like every time, they come up with new reasons for turning me down.  It’s frustrating.”

The review board declined comment.

Now it’s the law in California. Defendants cannot be convicted solely on testimony proffered by jailhouse informants reports Bob Egelko in SFGATE.

SB687 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, applies to cases in which an inmate, often in exchange for leniency, testifies that a cellmate confessed to a crime. The bill, effective next year, will require prosecutors to corroborate that testimony.

Leno praised Governor Jerry Brown for signing this legislation into law. Similar laws exist in 17 other states. Leno noted, “Without the safeguards created in this legislation, the potential for the miscarriage of justice when informant testimony is involved is just too high.”

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Cook County, Illinois: Hotbed of Wrongful Conviction

Seth — June 01, 2011 @ 9:05 AM — Comments (1)

In most exoneration cases, you find one individual who was wrongly convicted and some new evidence, DNA or otherwise, that proves that person innocent.  Maybe this new evidence even identifies the real killer.  If this is the normal example of wrongful conviction, then what happens in Chicago is wrongful conviction on steroids:

New DNA evidence implicates a convicted killer in a rape and murder that sent four teenagers to prison for lengthy sentences in the 1990s.

The four were convicted of the murder and rape of Nina Glover, 30, largely on the basis of confessions they made to police and prosecutors, even though primitive DNA testing at the time excluded them as the source of semen evidence. But new testing links Johnny Douglas to Glover’s rape and murder, according to court papers filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court.

. . .

The developments in the case bear striking similarities to another wending its way through Cook County’s criminal justice system. Five teenagers were convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Dixmoor after several of them confessed. But recent DNA testing has connected a convicted rapist to the crime.

It’s not enough to pin a crime wrongfully on one person.  In Chicago, they go for the jackpot, roping in as many individuals as possible.  In the Glover murder, they based the convictions on false confessions, ignoring DNA evidence that pointed away from these four teenagers.  So now that they know the identity of the true perpetrator, a multi-time rapist/murderer, they surely will let these guys out, right?  Wrong!:

The state’s attorney’s office declined to discuss the DNA match to Douglas, but the office has been skeptical of the new DNA evidence in both the Glover and Dixmoor murders.

The Cook County prosecutor’s answer to exonerative DNA results is not to do everything in their power to right the wrong.  The answer to a link to an known rapist/murderer is not to arrest that person and secure a reliable (and frankly easy) conviction.  In Cook County, the answer to is to be “skeptical” of the new DNA results.  Nine individuals are wrongfully convicted and incarcerated and they must remain burdened by a false conviction because the defense made up for police and prosecutor short cuts and incompetence before and at trial by solving the case for them today.

Or maybe it’s just that preserving nine wrongful convictions on the books are better than two correct convictions and admitting your are wrong.

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