Last charge dismissed in wrongful conviction

January 7, 2013

The Associated Press and Lauren Chooljian

WAUKEGAN, Ill.  — Prosecutors in Lake County have dismissed the remaining charge against a Chicago man who spent 20 years in prison before DNA evidence pointed to someone else.

Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim on Monday agreed to drop the aggravated battery charge against Bennie Starks.

“Mentally, it’s a huge burden that has been lifted, to be vindicated [and] for his innocence to be acknowledged,” said Vanessa Potkin, Senior Staff Attorney with the Yeshiva University Innocence Project. The group has been working on Starks’ case since the 1990s.

Starks was convicted in 1986 of raping a 68-year-old Waukegan woman. He's been free on bond since 2006 when an appeals court ordered a new trial after DNA testing pointed away from him. Starks was also convicted of a battery charge in the same 1986 attack.

The rape charge was dismissed last year after an appeals court ruling.