Four wrongfully convicted men who each spent about 15 years in prison are suing the city of Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney for framing them for murder.
As teenagers living in Englewood in the 1990s, the four men confessed to the crime even though new DNA testing shows they didn’t actually do it.
In discussing the case attorney Flint Taylor doesn’t shy away from using the word “framed.”
“It means that once you decided who you thought did it as a detective, you built a case around them and then when it becomes clear that you’re wrong, you continue to pursue that case and you turn your back on the fact that these men are in the penitentiary and their lives are being destroyed,” said Taylor.
Taylor says he doesn’t think the police intentionally targeted the kids for a wrongful prosecution from the outset, but he says once police had confessions they ignored all other evidence. He says to do anything else would have forced police to answer some tough questions about how they got confessions from teens who didn’t commit the crime.
Recent DNA testing showed a semen sample taken from the victim belonged to a man named Johnny Douglas. Douglas is now deceased but he had a history of strangling and raping prostitutes and was actually interviewed by police at the crime scene.
Based on that evidence, the four men, Terrill Swift, Harold Richarson, Vincent Thames, and Michael Saunders have all been given certificates of innocence. Saunders says it’s been tough getting used to life on the outside.
“Everything ain’t been easy, it’s been great being free but the struggles continue. You know, work, repairing relationships, you know dealing with the loss of loved ones you know?” said Saunders.
Terrill Swift says he’s been able to find a job and now he’s looking for a place to live, “but it’s kinda hard when you have no credit at 35 and people want to know why don’t you have credit and I don’t want to tell everybody what I went through but you have to at times,” said Swift.
Attorneys estimate their lawsuit for the wrongful convictions will take four years to get through the courts.