Posts Tagged ‘illinois’


Man Awarded $15 Million in Wrongful Conviction Settlement

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 03, 2016 @ 1:23 PM — Comments (0)

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After spending 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, Rodell Sanders has received a 15 million dollar settlement in compensation for his wrongful conviction in the 1993 murder of Philip Atkins in Chicago Heights.

On December 15th, 1994, Atkins and his girlfriend, Stacy Armstrong, were shot and left for dead in Chicago Heights. Due to Armstrong’s eyewitness testimony (despite the attacker being tall and thin and Sanders being 5’8” and 200 pounds) and a jailhouse informant who later revealed he received cash payments for testifying, Rodell Sanders was arrested and convicted to 80 years in prison.

This, however, didn’t stop him from giving up. Sanders spent years sending out Freedom of Information requests to learn more about his own case and review trial transcripts. “I didn’t want to die in prison. I wanted to make it back out to my family, and I wanted to expose the Chicago Heights Police Department for exactly what they were,” Sanders told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sanders’ perseverance, courage, and diligence paid off because, years later, the chief of police in Chicago Heights during the time of the case was convicted, along with six other police officers, of bribery and extortion for taking money from gang leaders and using their position of power to take out the gang’s competitors.

Once this new information reached the public, Sanders dedicated himself to his exoneration and making the state grant him a re-trial. Sanders poured over law books and trial transcripts all to write his own appeal in efforts to get his case back on the court floor. With the help of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project, Sanders returned home to his family in July of 2014 after two separate re-trials.

“I don’t know if you can really say it makes things right because I can never get back those 20 years they’ve taken from me,” Sanders said to the Chicago Tribune. “There are many, many things that I’ve lost, and they can never be given back, so no, it doesn’t make it right.” However, at the very least, it allows victims of wrongful conviction to be able to rebuild their lives, families and hope in a new and sometimes unfamiliar world. Now, Sanders works for Loevy & Loevy, the very law firm that represented him during his fight for compensation. He dreams of helping other people who have been wrongfully convicted seek justice.

State compensation for wrongful convictions is an up-hill battle and Sanders’ success can be seen as an exception, not the norm, to the trying efforts of many to receive compensation for their decades spent behind bars. Currently, only 13 states provide any services for exonerees after they have been released from prison. If you want to help the efforts of expanding state compensations and encourage the justice system to give back to its victims, follow the link and sign the pledge!

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Two Men at the Mercy of the Courts

Henry Thompson — September 05, 2013 @ 8:00 AM — Comments (0)

In the news last week were two men who have both claimed to be innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted for more than 35 years. The battle for justice is over for both of them, but for very different reasons. On August 28th, Anthony McKinney died while attempting to prove his innocence and regain his life.  On August 29th, Milton Scarborough was given back his life and released from prison after 36 years of denying his guilt.

On August 29th, 2013 Milton Scarborough, 73, of Pennsylvania, was released from prison for a murder he was convicted of in 1976. Scarborough was not found innocent and his conviction still stands as he was released through a deal made between him and the courts. Scarborough has been challenging his wrongful conviction case at the state and federal level, as well as denying his guilt for decades without success. Scarborough contends that with DNA testing he would be exonerated of his crime. A Pennsylvania Superior Court decision noted that the absence of Scarborough’s DNA at the crime scene does not ensure that he was not present at the crime. About a month after this decision was made to not fund DNA testing for Scarborough, however, Lycoming District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt announced that Scarborough would be released to his family. He will be monitored by the courts for the duration of his sentence as a condition of the agreement. If Scarborough would have won an appeal, to retry him would have been difficult and expensive for the state to pursue due to a lack of witnesses and valid testimonies.

On Wednesday August 28, just one day before Scarborough’s release, a man who was desperately trying to prove his innocence died while still in prison. Anthony McKinney was found deceased in his cell yesterday with the cause of death yet to be determined, though foul play is not suspected. McKinney was arrested in 1978 for the murder of a security guard. At 18 years old, McKinney pled guilty after being beaten with pipes by police. Although there were witnesses who stated that McKinney was not present at the murder scene, Anthony McKinney stayed imprisoned for 35 years.

1377717885-mckinneyUnfortunately judges never heard McKinney’s case due to six years of delays and controversies. Karen Daniel, the lead attorney for Anthony McKinney and an attorney for the Center for Wrongful Convictions stated “The criminal justice system failed Anthony.”

In McKinney’s case, his imprisoned life led to his untimely death at age 53. McKinney is a victim of the backlog of cases upon cases that are waiting at the door of courthouses around the country. Along with the large amounts of time taken to prove innocence, prosecutorial bias can slow the process as well.  The Illinois court system failed in its duty to provide justice for all people.

These two cases reflect the priorities of these two justice systems. In either case, the courts and the prosecution had motives for either responding to an inmate’s cries for justice or ignoring them. These actions, as all of the actions of any public official, should be constantly monitored and judged on the basis of fairness and justice.

More information about Scarborough’s case can be found The Patriot News (1) while information of Anthony McKinney can be found at The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader.

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Weekly Update: Compensation and Misconduct in the Lone Star State

Chelsea — May 21, 2012 @ 8:59 AM — Comments (1)

Austin County Attorney Brags About Professional Misconduct

A county attorney in Austin, Texas name of Jana Duty has lied about her involvement with the case of exoneree Michal Morton, who was convicted of murdering his wife Christine over 25 years ago. Duty is currently running for election as Austin’s district attorney, and these allegations of her professional misconduct have come out as a result of her campaign.

Read more about the complaints lodged against Ms. Duty by John Bradley, a man who is running for the same district attorney spot, here.

Texas Supreme Court Orders State to pay $2 Million to Exoneree

Texas exoneree Billy Frederick Allen spent 26 years behind bars for two Dallas murders he did not commit. Yesterday it was announced that he will finally receive compensation for the time he spent wrongfully incarcerated.

Allen was convicted in 1983 and was released in 2009; his release, unlike many other exonerations, came about as a result of problems with witness testimony and Allen’s legal representation that surfaced decades after the original trial. Allen’s success in suing the State for compensation may be the start towards setting a precedent for compensation in other wrongful convictions cases.

Read more about Allen’s case and his compensation trial here.

DNA Evidence Links Another Man to Murder of a Young Girl

Illinois man Andre Davis was only 19 when he was arrested for the murder of 3-year-old Brianna Stickle. While he has not yet been completely exonerated, DNA tests have linked another man to the case, and Davis will either be retried or have the charges against him dropped within the next several weeks. At present Davis’s conviction has been overturned.

Read more about Davis’s case and his future here.

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Weekly Update: Exonerees Speak Up for Justice and the Northeast Steps Forward with Reforms

Chelsea — April 13, 2012 @ 11:13 AM — Comments (0)

Exoneree Juan Rivera Steps Out to Speak Against Wrongful Convictions

Juan Rivera has remained fairly quiet since he was exonerated earlier this year in a 1992 Illinois murder, but now he will be speaking at an upcoming panel discussion on wrongful convictions. Rivera will appear at Northern Illinois University’s College of Law in DeKalb Tuesday on a so-called Innocence Panel that also includes Justice Susan Hutchinson of the Illinois Appellate Court’s 2nd District, which authored the ruling that led to Rivera’s release, according to the Lake Forest TribLocal.

The panel is scheduled with the intent of bringing awareness to the critical importance of justice reform in preventing wrongful convictions, especially considering an upcoming general election when Lake County will be electing a new state’s attorney.

Read more about Rivera’s case and the upcoming NIU Innocence Panel here.

Connecticut Senate Moves to Repeal Death Penalty

Last Thursday the Connecticut Senate debated for hours before deciding in a 20-16 vote to repeal their death penalty law. Connecticut’s largely left-wing House of Representatives is expected to return a vote in favor of repealing the law within the next several weeks, according to the Associated Press. Further, “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first Democratic governor elected in two decades, has vowed to sign the same bill vetoed by his Republican predecessor.”

Connecticut is one of five states to have done away with the death penalty recently, including New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Illinois. However, those states are ones that have hardly used the death penalty within the past fifty years.

Several other states, such as Kentucky and California, have proposals to repeal capitol punishment pending. Increased awareness of how often our system gets it wrong is a big part of why these precautions and considerations are being made.

Read more here.

New York Attorney General Establishes Wrongful Conviction Investigative Board

Wednesday Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the creation of a new department within the New York Office of the Attorney General; an unprecedented department that will act on an initiative to address issues causing wrongful convictions statewide.

“There is only one person who wins when the wrong person is convicted of a crime: the real perpetrator, who remains free to commit more crimes. For victims, their families, and any of us who could suffer the nightmare of being wrongly accused, it is imperative that we do everything possible to maximize accuracy, justice, and reliability in our justice system,” Attorney General Schneiderman said, according to a Long Island Press Release. “As a result, my office will be working with District Attorneys across the state to address compelling claims of innocence, and I will conduct a top-to-bottom review of my office’s investigatory and prosecutorial procedures, and adapt them as needed to ensure reliability.”

The new bureau has three major tasks; it will review potential wrongful conviction cases from within the District Attorney’s office, it will conduct a thorough review of the Office of the Attorney General’s investigatory and prosecutorial procedures, and a subcommittee of the Bureau will meet to resolve unjust conviction torts filed against the State. This will enable exonerees meeting the requirements for compensation under state law, to receive it in an efficient, streamlined manner.

Read more here.

While we have no proof or actions yet to verify the words of the Attorney General, this is an organization that we need, nationwide, to reform the justice system. While it may still not go far enough (we still need to change police procedures and the prejudices and biases that exist in juries), this in combination with New York’s increased DNA database makes New York one of the most proactive and progressive states with regard to justice reform. And for that, I commend them.

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