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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Law - Chicago to pay $9 million in wrongful conviction; contrast with South Bend case

The Chicago Sun-Times reports today:

The city agreed to pay $9 million to a Chicago man wrongfully convicted of raping and robbing an elderly woman in 1993, and to undertake what could be a massive review of practices at the old Chicago crime lab.

The investigation into lab procedures came to light as the city announced its settlement with Lafonso Rollins, 30, who spent 11-1/2 years in prison but was released after DNA evidence -- collected as part of an appeal Rollins filed in 2000 -- cleared him.

The review could include any criminal conviction before 1995 where a DNA sample was taken but not used. * * *

Rollins, a former special education student who had no criminal record, was 17 when he was convicted.

He repeatedly told police, "I'm innocent," until they "hit him around a couple times" and he agreed to confess, Fioretti said.

At the press conference, Rollins said police used "scare tactics" and "put their hands on me" and "kept hittin' me" until "finally I asked them what happened. He [a detective] told me everything" to say in a confession, and Rollins signed a document written by an assistant state's attorney, he said.

"I was scared to death," he said. "I didn't want to go through it."

In prison, other inmates identified him as someone who'd raped an elderly woman, which led him to be treated more harshly than others, he said.

He said he'd "try to hold my dignity, my pride" during that time, though he admits to times he'd ask himself, "Did I do this?"

Rollins, who has been unable to find a job despite a pardon from Gov. Blagojevich, said he hopes to use the settlement to start a clothing line and publish a book.

But he's not celebrating.

"This isn't no lottery ticket," he said. "This is my life."

The Chicago Tribune reports, in a lengthy story:
The issue of police obtaining false confessions from innocent suspects as well as shoddy crime lab work have dogged Chicago police in other cases in recent years and have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements of lawsuits brought by other wrongly convicted defendants.

In announcing the settlement, Georges said the city recently learned "there might have been a problem with how the old Chicago Crime Lab handled the case," referring to the lab that, in 1996, was taken over by the Illinois State Police.

Contrast this outcome with Alexander v. City of South Bend, noted in this ILB entry from Jan. 3, 2006.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 28, 2006 12:00 PM
Posted to General Law Related | Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions