CBS 2 Chicago wbbm7801059 670 The Score

Local

Caine Marks First Week Of Freedom After 25 Years In Prison

View Comments
Eric Caine

Eric Caine was set free from prison on March 17, 2011, after 25 years in prison. Prosecutors dropped the case against him, due to a questionable confession that he claims was the result of police torture. (Credit: CBS)

Get Breaking News First

Receive News, Politics, and Entertainment Headlines Each Morning.
Sign Up

CHICAGO (CBS) – When Eric Caine went to prison, Ronald Reagan was president, almost no one had a cell phone and a gallon of gas cost less than $1.

Exonerated and a free man again after 25 years, Caine now has his own cell phone, email address and Facebook account.

Caine had been convicted of killing a Chicago couple and sentenced to life in prison, but for 25 years, he maintained he was innocent.

Last week, Caine was set free when a judge dismissed his case because prosecutors said they could not move forward with a retrial.

Caine had long maintained his confession was the result of torture at the hands of Chicago police detectives under the command of Lt. Jon Burge.

A week after he stepped out of Menard Correctional Center downstate, Caine spoke with CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot about his life in the real world after spending a quarter of a century behind bars.

“I’m out! I’m really out!” Caine said Thursday in Chicago. “I’m finally accepting that I’m out.”

Caine said he’s stunned to see the changes that have taken place in the past 25 years.

“I have a cell phone now, that I still don’t know how to completely work,” Caine said in Chicago on Thursday. “I just got an email account that I keep forgetting my email address. … I get the password, I just keep forgetting the address.”

Caine also said he now has a Facebook account, which he is still learning to use.

“Technology is the number one big thing — and money!” he said. “It looks funny. … It looks completely different.”

When he went to prison, all paper money was green and the graphics looked much different than now, when most paper currency has numerous anti-counterfeiting measures.

“Some of it looks like napkins to me. Some of it, you know, it’s just a strange thing,” Caine said.

Recently, Caine had dinner with his family and members of The Exoneration Project, the University of Chicago Law School legal team that worked to get him free.

His attorney, Russell Ainsworth said, “I feel pure joy to be able to get Eric out of prison after 25 years of his incarceration. There’s so few moments in life where it’s just pure unadulterated joy and this was one of those moments.”

Ainsworth said Caine’s case should give hope to other inmates who were tortured into false confessions at the hands of Burge and his detectives.

For his own part, Caine was looking forward to life as a free man.

“It’s over. The nightmare is over. I’m out,” Caine said.

Caine’s nightmare began in 1986 when he and his co-defendant, Aaron Patterson, were convicted in the 1986 murders of a Chicago couple.

Both Caine and Patterson always said they were tortured into confessing to the crime by detectives under the command of Lt. John Burge.

On March 17, Caine was released from Menard after prosecutors told a judge that they couldn’t prove the case against him at a potential retrial.

Stuart Nudelman, a former judge appointed as a special prosecutor in Caine’s case, said last week that Caine’s confession was questionable and that there was “really no other evidence” against him.

On the same day Caine left prison, Burge reported to a federal prison in North Carolina to serve his 4½-year sentence for lying about the torture of criminal suspects while he was a Chicago cop.

Caine said that, since he’s been free, he has been working to rebuild relationships with family members he hasn’t seen for more than two decades.

While behind bars, Caine’s mother, father and grandmother died. He also missed seeing his daughter grow up.

Caine is entitled to $199,000 from the state for his wrongful conviction. He has filed lawsuits against the officers involved in his torture.

Caine also said he plans to set up a website to connect ministries around the world to help those in need and start a non-profit that will monitor court systems in the United States.

His co-defendant, Aaron Patterson, was set free seven years ago when then-Gov. George Ryan pardoned him and three other death row inmates who claimed they were tortured by Burge and his detectives.

But Patterson has since gone back to prison on federal gun and drug charges.

View Comments