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CHICAGO (CBS) – A Cook County judge has ordered a new trial for four men who had been convicted of raping and strangling a prostitute in Englewood 17 years ago.
Cook County Criminal Court Presiding Judge Paul Biebel tossed out the convictions of Terrill Swift, Vincent Thames, Michael Saunders and Harold Richardson in light of new evidence linking another man’s DNA to the body of Nina Glover.
A pair of the defendants cried and there was lots of hugging in the courtroom after Biebel’s ruling.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports
Johnny Douglas, who had been convicted in a similar murder in 1997, was present when Glover’s naked body was recovered from a dumpster on Nov. 7, 1994, according to the attorneys of the four men whose convictions have been overturned.
Douglas, whose DNA has since been linked to Glover’s body, is deceased.
After Biebel’s ruling, Swift said the decision was “a step in the right direction.”
“However, I am still fighting to prove my innocence and I am innocent. We all are. We’re going to continue to fight,” Swift said.
Swift and Thames already had been released from prison after serving at least 15 years behind bars.
Saunders and Richardson, who are still in prison, must post $50,000 bond to go free, pending a new trial.
Saunders’ mother said it’s been tough on the family, including his daughter Danielle, who hasn’t seen her dad outside of prison.
“He wants to come home with his family. He’s been missing his family for 17 years,” she said.
Attorneys for the Center on Wrongful Convictions and others were working to have the four men’s names removed from the state’s sex offender registry. They also said they hope prosecutors decide not to try the four men a second time.
The four men, teenagers in 1994, have claimed they were coerced into confessing to the murder, each giving very different accounts of the crime, their attorneys said.
A fifth teen was also charged, but a judge ruled that his confession was inadmissible and his case was dismissed.
(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)