A Review of Waukegan’s “Costly Record of Misconduct”

By: Joan Williams

The Chicago Tribune’s November 1 cover story discusses the cost of misconduct for Waukegan police officers. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, no police agency in Illinois, except for Chicago, has more wrongful convictions than Waukegan. The police in the far north suburb sent six men to prison who were later cleared by either DNA or medical evidence. One of those men was Loyola’s Life After Innocence client Angel Gonzalez.

Insurers and the city have paid 26.1 million dollars in police cases since 2006, outspending towns with more police and, in some cases, more violent crimes. What is going on in Waukegan? The article notes that the majority of the residents are African-American or Hispanic, and the police are white. Similarly, a wide majority of the payouts since 2006 went to African-Americans and Hispanics.   Additionally, police in the department with troubled records were among the arresting officers. These seem to be common factors in wrongful conviction statistics.

Considering the issues in Waukegan, the US Department of Justice should consider investigating the police practices to avoid further discord between the police and the residents. It’s unsettling to learn that city officials continue to approve the settlements without calling for greater scrutiny of the police department. Lack of diversity and justice appears to be an issue throughout the city, not just within the police department and should be rectified in light of discord throughout the country.

For the reviewed Chicago Tribune article, click here.


Prosecutorial Misconduct: Discretion, Decisions, and Wrongful Convictions

By: Professor and Exoneree Jarrett Adams

United States law gives state and federal prosecutors complete and nearly, unreviewable authority to decide whether or not to bring criminal charges and what charges to bring. This authority puts American prosecutors amongst the most powerful of public officials. However, this power has also been found to be a leading factor in cases of wrongful convictions.

Although countless instances of misconduct never come to light, an Innocence Project review found that 65 of the first 255 DNA exonerees raised allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in their appeals or in civil suits filed after exoneration. In about half of those cases, courts found either error or misconduct by prosecutors. However, judges only found “harmful error” – enough to overturn a conviction – in 12 cases.

Often, society questions the use of discretion in cases involving race, public figures, and youth. This paper will examine the following: 1) the nature and extent of prosecutorial misconduct as a component of wrongful convictions; 2) the leading Supreme Court prosecutorial immunity decisions; and 3) the impact of these decisions on the pervasive problem of prosecutorial misconduct.

Continue reading

Life After Innocence STRIKES Again

By: KH

A group of attendees posed for the camera in between bowling and socializing.

A group of attendees posed for the camera in between bowling and socializing.

Life After Innocence (LAI) hosted a bowling event on Sunday, October 18. We were delighted to welcome several new members of the Illinois Innocence Project! Rebecca and Tyler, both social work students in Chicago, joined us and brought along Alstory Simon and Stanley Rice. We also welcomed new restaurant owner Eric Caine, Marvin Reeves, and LAI alums Emily De Yoe and Margie Kennedy. It was part-time faculty member, Jarrett Adams’s, first bowling experience with LAI— and he did well!

We all enjoy these opportunities to spend time with exonerees so that we can provide a much-needed support system in a relaxed atmosphere.  It’s good to be reminded of how important the human element is to our work in a legal clinic like LAI.

Student Spotlight: Dagny Broome

By: Sarah Patarino

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dagny Broom (left), Director and Founder of LAI Laura Caldwell (right)

Dagny Broom (left), Director and Founder of LAI Laura Caldwell (right)

Meet Dagny Broome.  Political scientist.  International humanitarian.  Third year law student.  And legislation guru.

Dagny studied political science and economics at Smith College, a private liberal arts college in Massachusetts.  Dagny’s study of political science helped spark her interest in policy as well as her passion for enacting change.

“I came to law school in order to help those who were less fortunate and to enact change on a policy level,” Dagny said.  “When I was a junior in high school, I went to a summer program called Presidential Classroom.  It was a gathering of high school students who were interested in politics.  It was the first time that I got to meet so many people with the same interests as me and who had the same passion to change things for the better.  It was during that time that I decided to go to law school and am so thankful that I was unable to fulfill that dream and be on my way to graduation this year.”

With an interest in policy reform and a passion for people, Dagny quickly found a home at the Life After Innocence (LAI), a legal clinic at Loyola University Chicago. When she arrived at Loyola she read about the clinic and decided she wanted to be a member of the team.

“Pretty soon after I started reading about it and seeing what t entailed, I knew that I wanted to join and am so glad that I did,” Dagny stated.  “The clinic has broadened my horizons and my expertise in the criminal justice world.”

According to Dagny, LAI is a great place to learn how to advocate for those in need and to hone her other skills.

“Knowing what sorts of obstacles the wrongfully convicted face after being released from prison has helped me to come a better advocate for those who need one,” Dagny said.

While the day-to-day operations of the clinic allow Dagny to practice her advocacy and legislative skills, it was the annual Innocence Conference that meant the most to Dagny this past year.

“The most rewarding part of the clinic for me was when I attended the Innocence Conference in April,” Dagny said.  “It was an amazing opportunity to hear stories from around the U.S. and to meet truly inspiring people working in the innocence field.  I also got to meet all the exonerees that we work with and learn more about their stories and experiences.”

Dagny hopes to continue using her expertise and her knowledge of the law to work in the criminal defense field when she graduates.

“I would ideally love to work in international human rights,” She said.  “Advocating for policies in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva or in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.”

Dagny’s interest in legislation helped her to act as the legislative leader at LAI.  During her time with the clinic, LAI was able to introduce mental health and education bills into Illinois legislation.  Dagny was able to begin to accomplish part of her dream to make changes for the better and to help those who cannot help themselves.  Her contributions have been invaluable and she continues to teach the LAI members each day.

Legislation Update: Education Grants for Exonerees

Dagny Broome (Left), exoneree James Kluppelberg (Center), Ashley Stead (Right)

Dagny Broome (Left), exoneree James Kluppelberg (Center), Ashley Stead (Right); discussing possible legislation changes

By: Dagny Broome

Life After Innocence (LAI) continues its work on legislation. The passage of Senate Bill 223 was a huge win for the clinic, as it ensures that all Illinois exonerees are entitled to free higher education in state-run school. The bill also allows those same individuals to obtain a GED with state funding. This bill will ease the transition that exonerees face when re-entering society, sometimes after spending decades in prison.

The funding of the bill is under review along with hundreds of other programs that await the passage of the appropriations bill currently pending in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Once funding is decided, LAI will be working with the social work program at the University of Chicago. Together, LAI and University of Chicago will work to implement both the education bill and another bill passed by LAI in 2011 that provides free mental health care to exonerees.

In honor of national Wrongful Conviction Day we would like to present our Exoneration Roundup

By: Claire Gupta

Claire Gupta is a seventeen-year-old intern at LAI. She is a senior in high school and an aspiring lawyer. She is Secretary General of her school’s Model UN Secretariat, and in her spare time, she likes to read, write, and walk her dog. 

  • Lewis Fogle from Indiana was convicted of murder in 1982 and exonerated on August 13th, after 34 years in prison. The Innocence Project took up his case, and then new DNA evidence and technology prompted his exoneration. The prosecutors, however, took 30 days to decide whether to re-try Fogle because District Attorney Patrick Dougherty believed that the new evidence was not sufficient for a conviction, but also did not exclude Fogle as a suspect. On September 14th, after re-interviewing witnesses and reviewing the evidence, District Attorney Dougherty concluded that he did not have enough evidence to re-prosecute Fogle for second degree murder. He was therefore cleared of all charges: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/da-will-not-retry-lewis-fogle-freed-dna-after-34-n427161
  • Lawrence J. Miller, a former New York correctional officer, was wrongfully imprisoned for 12 years for the assault of two teenagers. Despite his solid alibi, Miller was wrongfully convicted based on the fact that his handcuffs were used in the crime and one of the victims identified him. There was no blood or fingerprint evidence linking Miller to the crime. Daniel Johnston, a man who was being investigated by the police for other crimes, told the police that Miller was not the man who assaulted the two teenagers. The video recording of his confession was kept in a detective’s desk for 12 years. Johnston, by then a convicted murderer, later testified for Miller and the former corrections officer was exonerated in 1997. Since Miller was a corrections officer, when he entered prison he was brutally beaten and suffered immensely. The state has awarded him $4 million in compensation: https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3474
  • Daniel Andersen was wrongfully convicted of murder and attempted rape of his childhood friend, Cathy Trunko, in 1980. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s  office has decided not to prosecute him after the judge threw out Andersen’s conviction in July. Andersen had been out of prison for several years. Advanced DNA testing confirmed that he did not have any connection to key evidence. One of Andersen’s attorneys, Joshua Tepfer, works with the University of Chicago Innocence Project and claims that the wrongful conviction was due to a forced false confession. Andersen is currently looking to remove himself from the sex offender registration and seeking a certificate of Innocence that would make him eligible for a $200,000 payment from the state and clear his convictions from court records: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wrongly-convicted-charges-dropped-met-20150813-story.html

Life After Innocence Update

  • Members of Life After Innocence invited exonerees, Loyola students, and others came together at Wills Northwoods Inn on September 24.  The Life After Innocence members shared stories with attendees and expressed the passion the clinic has for helping exonerees to move forward with their lives.  The members also sold raffle tickets to raise money for the clinic.
  • Exoneree and now Adjunct Professor Jarrett Adams joined Professor Caldwell this semester as the clinic’s first exoneree professor.  Professor Adams brings his unique experience to each meeting and supports other exonerees in their endeavors to continue their education, to gain employment, to gain their certificates of innocence, and to take steps into their future.  We are blessed to have Professor Adams as a leader of our team and will continue to support him throughout his career.


Innocence Deterred: The Central Park Five

By: Anthony Pollinzi 

On the night of August 19, 1989, there were numerous reports of a group of more than twenty teenagers wandering the vicinity near Central Park and terrorizing citizens in its path.[i] The first of this series of violent events occurred north of the 102nd Street transverse where Michael Vigna was menaced by the group.[ii] Minutes later, Antonio Diaz was assaulted and robbed near the 102nd Street transverse. Diaz was left unconscious in the wake of this brutal attack.[iii] Approximately ten minutes after the first attack, a couple riding a tandem bicycle was harassed by the group near the 102nd entrance to Central Park.[iv] A cab driver reported that, just south of the third attack, his vehicle was pummeled by rocks.[v] When he attempted to investigate, he was threatened by the group.[vi]

Twenty minutes after the initial report, four separate joggers were reportedly harassed by the group at the northern end of the Central Park Reservoir.[vii] Two of these joggers escaped, but Robert Garner and John Loughlin were not so lucky.[viii] Garner was not seriously hurt in the assault but Loughlin was left unconscious after being beaten, though none of his injuries were considered to be potentially fatal.[ix] About three hours after the attacks on the male joggers, two men stumbled upon the scene of a brutal rape.[x] The victim, Trisha Meili, was a twenty nine year old white investment banker and her story would grow to be one of the most widely publicized rape cases in history.[xi] She was left robbed, nearly naked, unconscious, and in critical condition, but eventually recovered from the attack.[xii] Unfortunately, the young men wrongfully convicted for Meili’s rape would never be able to recover.

Eleven teenagers were charged for crimes arising from the events that night.[xiii] The five that would eventually come to be known as the “Central Park Five,” were the only five that the police were able to “convince” to admit some culpability for the attack.[xiv] The “Central Park Five” consisted of Kevin Richardson (Fourteen years old), Antron McCray (Fifteen years old), Raymond Santana (Fourteen years old), Yusef Salaam (Fifteen years old), and Kharey Wise (Sixteen years old).[xv] The boys were placed in separate rooms, many of whom were not accompanied by a guardian or attorney during the beginning of their intensive interrogations that lasted for hours.[xvi]  The police used manipulative methods to coerce the boys into confessing by using lies, their extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system, and the children’s ignorance of the legal system and their rights.[xvii] One boy was told that fingerprints had been found on the victim.[xviii] Another was told that he could go home if he confessed and implicated the real perpetrators.[xix]

The boys were questioned for hours on end and taken advantage of in a mentally exhausted state with little to no legal advice during what would be some of the most important hours of their lives.[xx] All five of the boys refused to admit that they had actually raped the victim, but each of them admitted to restraining the victim or participating in the crime in some other way.[xxi] Each of the boys pointed out other individuals or members of the group other than themselves as the actual perpetrators of the rape.[xxii] None of these stories were consistent with each other or the physical evidence obtained by the police.[xxiii] Unfortunately, the prosecution hinged their case almost entirely on the inconsistent confessions of the five young boys. In addition to the confessions, the prosecution used science, which is now outdated, and reached the counterintuitive conclusion that only one of the boys could have been the rapist. The science would eventually be considered inaccurate for the time period by other forensic scientists.[xxiv]

Although the case was weak in court, the media made a strong case against the boys with its extensive coverage where the notion of “innocent before proven guilty” was tossed aside and the boys were branded as delinquents and criminals.[xxv] Typically, the information of minors is kept private, but in this case, the media published the names, photos, and even addresses of the boys.[xxvi] The culmination of the extensive media coverage, the socioeconomic class of the victim, the location of the attack, and other aggravating factors put extreme pressure on the State’s government and law enforcement agencies to punish those responsible for the brutal attacks.[xxvii]

Because of that pressure, along with the State’s fervor to find a party culpable for the tragedy, the State convicted and imprisoned the five boys.[xxviii] Unfortunately, this miscarriage of justice would not be rectified until the actual perpetrator, a serial rapist who had committed multiple rapes in a manner consistent with the rape of the “Central Park Jogger”, came forward after a chance encounter with one of the five in prison more than a decade after the boys had been imprisoned.[xxix] Although the “Central Park Five” would eventually be released, they could never be freed from the emotional scars of their interrogations, prosecution, and imprisonment, their negative public image, or the effects of spending their formative years behind bars.[xxx]

Negative Public Image

Because of the extensive media coverage at the time of the attacks as well as after the attacks, the “Central Park Five” never had a chance at a normal life.[xxxi] Although their status as felons had officially been removed by the State, there were multiple parties that continued to insist they were in some way culpable for the attacks.[xxxii]

Even though the District Attorney handling the case at the time the motions to vacate were filed requested that the judge grant the motions, the District Attorney who oversaw the original prosecution of the “Central Park Five”, though she was no longer involved with the case, strongly opposed the recommendation that the judge vacate the convictions.[xxxiii] The Police Commissioner stood by the convictions, stating, “the Judge’s ruling has neither exonerated the defendants nor found any collusion or coercion on the part of the police.”[xxxiv] Even an officer who publicly stated that the actual perpetrator was “capable of doing anything” and that he was “one of the top five lunatics” he had talked to “across the table” during his tenure of over twenty five years with the New York Police Department, believed that the officers overseeing the confessions would “absolutely not” risk their jobs to “put words in the mouth of a fifteen year old kid.” Despite this statement, the false confessions still exist.[xxxv]

Along with the officers and attorneys who did not commit to believing in the innocence of the boys, other individuals also continued to denounce the “Central Park Five”.[xxxvi] One of the most notable of the denouncers was Donald Trump.[xxxvii] Trump posted full page ads in multiple New York newspapers calling the boys “muggers and murderers” in a plea to bring back the death penalty in 1990 and, after the settlement was reached, publicly denounced and shamed New York for attempting to rectify the situation. Trump called it “a disgrace” and claimed that he had spoken to a detective who called the settlement “the heist of the century.”[xxxviii] Trump never addressed the actual perpetrator, but instead stated that “these young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels” even though their pasts only consisted of fourteen to sixteen years.[xxxix]

In wrongful conviction cases, due to the negative media coverage, public statements, and the decision of the State to not explicitly state that their conviction was wrong, the statements that are made perpetuate the incorrect and harmful notion that these victims are dangerous, a notion that likely haunts the exonerees in every aspect of their lives as they attempt to regain control of the lives that were taken from them.[xl]

Civil Cases

“When you have a person who has been exonerated of a crime the city provides no services to transition him back to society. The only thing left is something like this [a civil law suit] so you can receive some type of money so you can survive.” Raymond Santana, one of the “Central Park Five”.[xli]

Many exonerees do not have the ability to file a civil suit. However, the “Central Park Five” sued the City in federal court for constitutional violations in 2004 and eventually settled for over forty million dollars in 2014, over a decade after their release.[xlii] Then-Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, resisted the suit, citing that the law regarding wrongful convictions does not allow the wrongfully convicted to recover when their confessions helped lead to their convictions. Spitzer did not address the possibility of the NYPD having coerced the confessions from the boys.[xliii] Michael Bloomberg resisted the suit but when Bill de Blasio took office as mayor of New York City he noted that “an injustice was done and we have a moral obligation to respond to that injustice,” and the civil suit was settled.[xliv]

[i] https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://wps.prenhall.com/wps/media/objects/13023/13335893/downloadables/NYDA%2520motion%2520in%2520Jogger%2520case.pdf&ved=0CBwQFjAAahUKEwiuwqmeiKnHahWOFplKHYdDACk&usg=AFQjCNHLyK7MRA9rLNnkuTesrD222222LETHXIZ&sig2=8RunAHltgOusuqWb7fL5IA (“District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate”)

[ii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[iii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[iv] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[v] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[vi] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[vii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[viii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[ix] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[x] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xi] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xiii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xiv] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xv] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xvi] The Central Park Five (Ken Burns Documentary)

[xvii] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xviii] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xix] The Central Park Five (Ken Burns Documentary)

[xx] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xxi] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xxii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xxiii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xxiv] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xxv] The Central Park Five (Ken Burns Documentary)

[xxvi] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xxvii] The Central Park Five (Ken Burns Documentary)

[xxviii] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xxix] District Attorney’s Affirmation In Response To Motion To Vacate

[xxx] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xxxi] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/central-park-pursue-money-41m-settlement-article-1.2036527

[xxxii] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xxxiii] http://www.wikipedia.org/centralparkjoggercase

[xxxiv] http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/crimelaw/features/n_7836/index1.html

[xxxv] http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/crimelaw/features/n_7836/index1.html

[xxxvi] http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/Donald-trump-and-the-central-park-five

[xxxvii] http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/Donald-trump-and-the-central-park-five

[xxxviii] http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/Donald-trump-and-the-central-park-five

[xxxix] http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/Donald-trump-and-the-central-park-five

[xl] http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/crimelaw/features/n_7836/index1.html

[xli] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/central-park-pursue-money-41m-settlement-article-1.2036527

[xlii] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/central-park-pursue-money-41m-settlement-article-1.2036527

[xliii] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/central-park-pursue-money-41m-settlement-article-1.2036527

[xliv] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/central-park-pursue-money-41m-settlement-article-1.2036527