Chicago City Council Considers $50 Million Settlement for Wrongfully Convicted Men

Chicago City Council Considers $50 Million Settlement for Wrongfully Convicted Men

City lawyers advised Chicago to pay $50 million to four men who served 20 years in jail for a 1995 double murder based on confessions obtained by investigators trained by former Chicago police chief Jon Burge.

The large payment would go to four men convicted of a 1995 double homicide. The men were arrested and prosecuted as minors and spent half their life in prison before being exonerated in 2017 and declared innocent when modern fingerprinting technology failed to identify them.

On Monday, the Finance Committee overwhelmingly accepted the settlement recommended by city attorneys, setting it up for a Wednesday City Council vote.

Four men—Lashawn Ezell, Charles Johnson, Troshawn McCoy, and Larod Styles—were accused of robbing and killing Khaled Ibrahim and Yousef Ali. Their federal claims claim Chicago Police Department investigators forced them to confess and lie.

On December night, two attackers shot and killed Ibrahim and Ali at Elegant Auto, their used car store. The attackers grabbed two cars and fled the 75th Street and Western Avenue lot.

Ezell, Johnson, McCoy, and Styles say officers interrogated them for hours without guardians and tied, tricking them into confessing when they were “terrified, confused and utterly worn down.”

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Johnson informed police he and his co-defendants planned to steal cars from the yard for components during one interrogation. He was identified as the trial gunman by witnesses. He and Styles received life without parole. McCoy received a 55-year sentence, while Ezell received 20 years and was released after 10.

Chicago City Council Considers $50 Million Settlement for Wrongfully Convicted Men (1)
Lashawn Ezell, 37, from left, Charles Johnson, 40, and Larod Styles, 37, members of the so-called Marquette Four, join with many of the attorneys who helped to have their convictions vacated on Feb. 15, 2017. (Chicago Tribune)

The pair served 73 years in prison, city attorney Jessica Felker said Monday. A decade after the convictions, authorities used modern technology to study fingerprints from one of the stolen automobiles but were unable to match the four guys, Felker said.

Instead, the fingerprints matched a convicted felon whose mother resided near the abandoned car. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office interviewed the individual but declined to charge him as per The Chicago Tribune.

Cassidy, the first defendant in the men’s claims, was accused of framing an 8-year-old boy in the 1998 murder of 11-year-old Ryan Harris. After being falsely convicted of rape and murder in 1994, the exonerated “Englewood Four” sued Cassidy. Exonerated men said Cassidy fed and pressured false admissions.

Felker said police interrogated the four men convicted of double murder after Cassidy claimed an anonymous caller told him McCoy was involved.

If the arrangement passes Wednesday, the city would pay the men $21 million and its insurer $29 million. It would be the city’s greatest police payment at $50 million, although other single-man settlements are larger.

The city had established the record in March after settling with Nathen Jones’ family for $45 million. The car Jones was in crashed after a police chase that violated department rules, leaving him unable to walk, communicate, or care for himself at 15.

The four men allege that police intimidated suspects, hid exculpatory evidence, deprived them of sleep, and other illegal methods to force confessions. His lawsuit claims that Ezell, jailed at 15, was “stripped of the basic pleasures of human experience” in prison.

The lawsuit states, “He missed the opportunity to begin living independently, to share holidays, births, funerals, and other life events with loved ones, to have girlfriends, to fall in love, to marry, and to pursue a career, and the fundamental freedom to live his life as an autonomous human

The lawsuit said he had suffered with the stigma of being a violent felon since leaving prison.

Four current and former Department of Water Management employees who claimed pervasive racism settled for $5.8 million.

The plaintiffs claim anti-Black discrimination resulted in poorer assignments, denied promotions, and harassment. According to one plaintiff’s claim, department leadership racism has been a “open secret.” A potentially embarrassing trial was avoided when city counsel secured a settlement weeks before.

Due to evidence that Johnson had a pistol, the Independent Police Review Authority found Hernandez justified in shooting him in 2016. Police planted a gun at the scene to cover up misbehavior, according to Johnson’s relatives. On Monday, city attorney Caroline Fronczak said the shooting video did not prove Johnson had a gun.

Aldermen authorized a $1.25 million compensation for a lady whose automobile was hit by a falling light pole at East Illinois Street and North McClurg Court. The concussed woman claimed the light pole was inadequately maintained.

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