Police misconduct lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are glad to report that the Cook County State's Attorney's office recently dropped all charges against a man who spent the last 20 years in jail. The man, Daniel Taylor, was forced to confess to a 1992 double murder despite being in police custody at the time of the killings.
Taylor's exoneration is the second in Chicago in the last ten days - just about a week ago, on June 17, 2013, an appeals court ruled that Nicole Harris was wrongfully convicted of killing her four-year-old son in 2005. She spent nearly eight years in prison for this crime, during which time she maintained her innocence and fought for her freedom.
Harris' living son, Diante, was prohibited from testifying in his mother's murder trial, because he still believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Had he been able to testify, he would have told the jury what police knew all along - that his little brother was pretending to be Spiderman when he accidentally strangled himself to death. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office even ruled his death accidental.
Like Taylor, Harris was coerced into giving a false confession by Chicago Police officers just a day after her youngest son died. In court, prosecutors chose to play recordings only of Harris' statement but nothing before or after. Two months after her confession, an Illinois law was passed requiring police to record entire custodial interrogations of murder suspects.
In the most recent exoneration, Daniel Taylor was only 17 when he was arrested, along with seven other young men, in connection with the shooting deaths of a man and women in their apartment on Chicago's north side. The crime occurred at 8:43 p.m. on November 16, 1992. At that precise moment in time, Taylor had been arrested disorderly conduct and was being held in the 23rd District police station, where he remained from 6:45 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Two weeks after the double murder, police arrested two minors who confessed to participating in the crime and implicated Taylor, along with five others. Despite clear police records pointing to the implausibility of his involvement in the murders, and despite two witnesses saying they saw the killers but that Taylor was not one of them, prosecutors brought charges against him and the other seven youths.
Before trial, one of those minors was dismissed, and two others were acquitted. The other five young men, including Taylor, were convicted based solely on their coerced, false confessions. Taylor attempted to defend himself using the testimony of the officer in charge of the 23rd District lockup and the officer who arrested him for disorderly conduct that night. The prosecution, however, contended that the records were inaccurate, and that both officers were somehow mistaken. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Then, in 2001, the Chicago Tribune investigated Taylor's case, finding new evidence confirming Taylor's presence in police custody at the time of the murders. The new evidence included an interview with someone who had also been in the 23rd District lockup at the time. The Tribune also found that the State's Attorney's Office investigators interviewed neither the detective who took Taylor's initial confession nor the prosecutor who took the court-reported statement. In light of this, Taylor filed a petition for post-conviction relief. He was again denied.
Then, nearly a decade later in February 2012, the Illinois Attorney General's Office disclosed in federal court that the state had improperly (and illegally) withheld important information from defense lawyers prior to Taylor's initial trial. Among this information included handwritten notes by the Assistant State's Attorney, who interviewed officers from the 23RD District before Taylor's trial, confirming he had been in custody at the time of the murders.
An attorney at the Center for Wrongful Convictions then obtained a sworn statement from the lockup keeper on duty that night in 1992, confirming that Taylor was not released until 10 p.m., and that it was not possible for him to be released earlier. Taylor's exoneration is the 90th so far in Cook County since 1989 - and he is the 34th to have been wrongfully imprisoned based on unreliable confessions.
Police misconduct lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating on behalf of civil rights violation victims and their families. If you or a loved one was seriously injured at the hands of a rogue or negligent police officer, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your suffering.