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Exonerated Death Row Inmate Asks for Investigation into Police Files

open-jail-cell-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1.pngThe Chicago Sun-Times recently focused on the story of a man who was awarded compensation from a jury after his conviction for a double murder was overturned. The former inmate spent 18 years in prison (12 for which he was on Death Row) before his conviction was finally overturned.

After he was cleared of his conviction in 2009, the man filed a lawsuit alleging that Chicago police purposely hid evidence that could have helped his defense, and that the police also illegally tampered with his case in other ways. After being awarded $80,000 from a jury (rather than $18 million he was seeking), the plaintiff said he would like to see an investigation carried out by federal prosecutors.

According to the article, an interesting event occurred after the former inmate's conviction was overturned-a police file related to his case that had been long missing ended up being "discovered." The file, which could have been helpful in exonerating him much earlier, had been tucked away in an old filing cabinet that was kept in a police station's basement. The shocking thing about the file was that prosecutors and law enforcement has spent years attesting that such a file never existed.

The man's defense attorneys accused the police of intentionally hiding the file. The lawyers stated that the file cabinet where the missing evidence was found contained information on unresolved cases that are from as early as the 1940s. They also claimed that the Chicago police department had spent decades concealing detectives' notes (or "street files") from defendants in criminal cases. The defense team also accused the police of tampering with lineups and putting the wrong dates on statements in order to try and reach a conviction against the plaintiff. While the jury rejected many of the former inmate's claims, it did find that one officer withheld or fabricated evidence, which violated the plaintiff's right to due process.

Following the jury award, the former Death Row inmate encouraged U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon to investigate the matter. He said that the filing cabinets that contained the "street files" should be seized, as these files may be able to help others who have suffered from wrongful convictions.

When law enforcement officers violate protocol and fail to be transparent with evidence, it is very easy for wrongful convictions to occur. A wrongful conviction can result in an undeserved prison sentences that takes up years or even the remainder of the convicted person's life. At Martin & Kent, L.L.C., we provide our clients with aggressive defense and do everything in our power to prevent wrongful convictions from occurring in the first place. Contact us to learn more about our legal services!

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