Earlier this month, CBS' "60 Minutes" ran a story about three men released from prison after spending decades on death row. The three are part of a growing number of men -- as many as 10 every month, according to this report -- whose wrongful convictions are being overturned "because of new evidence, new confessions or the forensic science of DNA."
True enough, new evidence and advanced technology have been key in many of these cases. It is important to remember, though, that there are a number of other reasons someone can be wrongfully convicted of a crime. Just ask the Cook County State's Attorney's office.
Three years ago, a Chicago police sergeant and another officer were charged with theft of government funds. The two had been involved in a shakedown operation in a public housing complex -- they demanded money from drug dealers in return for protection. They pleaded guilty and were sent to prison.
Their guilty pleas threw every arrest they had made into question, and the state's attorney established a Conviction Integrity Unit to review them. It isn't clear how many cases there were, nor is it clear how many cases have actually been reviewed. What is clear, however, is that one man waited for his case to come up for review for three years. In December, he took the matter into his own hands and petitioned the court for his release.
In less than a month, he was free. He had served 11 years for a crime he did not commit.
That's not quite the end of the story, though. We'll continue this in our next post.
CBS Local, "Attorneys For Newly Released Chicago Man: Why Did It Take So Long?" Suzanne Le Mignot, Jan. 15, 2016
Chicago Tribune, "Case spotlights code of silence among Chicago police," Jason Meisner and Annie Sweeney, Dec. 17, 2015