Police officers nationwide have had a bad rap for forcing confessions and framing people for crimes they didn’t commit. In some forces, such as the Chicago Police Department, it was considered endemic, so those defending themselves against accusations of homicide or other crimes needed to understand that what was happening wasn’t right or even legal.
The four men were originally convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of a 30-year-old woman, who was found in Chicago’s Englewood area. The men were in their teens at the time. The DNA evidence indicated that they were not the source of bodily fluids found inside the woman, but it was dismissed, with the prosecution pointing at the men’s confessions as “evidence” of the crime.
The men, dubbed the “Englewood Four,” have now filed lawsuits in federal court against prosecutors and police over the tactics used to score convictions.
In the lawsuits filed, the four men state that the confessions were extracted through coercion. Threats and violence were allegedly used by the police to obtain more “accurate” confessions. As a result of new DNA testing, a judge threw out the convictions in Nov. 2011. Prosecutors looking at the case decided against a retrial because they felt they could not prove that the men were guilty.
Consequently, all four men were given certificates of innocence in September.
While it is hoped that police forces are generally more honest, thanks to advances in technology and the public outrage that typically occurs after wrongdoing is exposed, mistakes and errors are discovered. Those facing similar charges today may find, with the right knowledge, that the evidence isn’t as watertight as they may think.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Englewood 4 sue police, prosecutors,” Jennifer Delgado, Nov. 16, 2012