CHICAGO (CBS) — Four men who were cleared last year of the 1994 rape and murder of a woman in the Englewood neighborhood are filing federal lawsuits claiming they were framed by police.
“To these detectives, one young black man is as good as another,” said attorney G. Flint Taylor, of the People’s Law Office.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports the four men are filing federal lawsuits against the city, the Chicago Police Department, and Cook County prosecutors, alleging they were framed for the 1994 rape and murder of Nina Glover, despite the fact that no physical evidence linked them to the crime and DNA evidence taken from the victim exonerated them.
The four — Michael Saunders, Harold Richardson, Terrill Swift, and Vincent Thames — were teenagers when they were convicted of Glover’s murder, ranging in age from 15 to 18 when they were arrested.
Taylor and other lawyers for the men known as the “Englewood Four” said police ignored evidence linking a man with a lengthy criminal history to the murder.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser Reports
“These cases will allege covering up, coerced confessions, torture, and other abuse,” Taylor said.
According to the lawsuits, police brought in each teen over the course of a few days and used “deceit, intimidation, threats … prolonged isolation … and outright physical coercion” to elicit a confession from each young man.
According to the suits, the coercion included pounding on one teen’s chest using a phone book and a flashlight; promising to release the young men if they confessed to the crime; denying requests to contact family members or consult an attorney; and threatening to take one teen behind the police station and shoot him if he did not confess.
“This is an epidemic, not only in Illinois, but across the country,” Taylor said.
Their lawyers said, based solely on these false confessions, all four teens were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison.
A year ago, Cook County Judge Paul Biebel tossed out their convictions and ordered a new trial for the four men, in light of new evidence linking another man’s DNA to Glover’s body. Two days after that ruling, Saunders and Richardson were released from jail after serving 17 years behind bars. Swift and Thames had already completed their sentences.
In January, prosecutors formally dropped charges against all four men. Their convictions have been vacated.
Each man spent at least 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
“What did I lose? My youth. … We were abducted,” Swift said. “Money can’t fill that void, an apology can’t fill that void. I mean, nothing can fill it.”
Swift spent 17 years behind bars before he was cleared. He had a message for police.
“We are not filing complaints just for monetary gain. We want you to make a change in how you interrogate us, speaking in reference to how we were as a youth, how you guys took advantage of us. That’s what we want. We want an apology as well,” Swift said.
The four men’s attorneys said DNA evidence excluded them as suspects in 1996, but it wasn’t until last year that DNA confirmed another man was responsible for Glover’s murder.
Attorney Stuart Chanen said “They knew that they were letting some violent criminal a complete pass. And he went out and did it again, and again, and again.”
Last year, new DNA testing linked convicted killer Johnny Douglas, aka “Maniac,” to Glover’s murder.
Chanen said Douglas was at the scene, and questioned by police when Glover’s body was found in 1994, but never charged in that case.
Douglas was shot and killed in 2008, but before his death, he had been charged with killing two other women after Glover’s death; he was convicted in one case and acquitted of the other.
The woman who shot and killed Douglas in 2008 said she was acting in self-defense, and she was acquitted of murder.