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’60 Minutes’ Report: Feds Probing Chicago Police Interrogation Tactics

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Terrill Swift speaks to CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts about his wrongful conviction for the 1994 rape and murder of a prostitute. Swift, 17 at the time he was interrogated by police, says he was coerced into confessing with a promise he'd be able to go home if he admitted he did it. (Credit: CBS)

Terrill Swift speaks to CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts about his wrongful conviction for the 1994 rape and murder of a prostitute. Swift, 17 at the time he was interrogated by police, says he was coerced into confessing with a promise he’d be able to go home if he admitted he did it. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The U.S. Justice Department has been conducting an investigation into the interrogation practices at the Chicago Police Department, and “60 Minutes” is about to break the story wide open.

CBS News chief national correspondent and “60 Minutes” contributor Byron Pitts reports one case involves a teenager, and dates back more than 25 years.

Terrill Swift, Michael Saunders, Harold Richardson, and Vincent Thames – known as the “Englewood Four” – had their convictions for a 1994 murder overturned last year, after DNA evidence cleared them of guilt.

Richardson and Saunders spent 17 years behind bars before they were cleared. Swift and Thames served 12 years in prison, and had already been released when they were cleared.

Now, all four men are suing the city, Cook County prosecutors, and several detectives, claiming authorities ignored evidence that a career criminal, Johnny “Maniac” Douglas, was responsible for the murders. Last year, new DNA testing linked Douglas to Glover’s murder.

Swift was 17 years old, still in high school, and had never been in trouble, but another teenager from his neighborhood implicated him and three other boys in 1995 in the November 1994 rape and murder of a 30-year-old prostitute named Nina Glover.

Swift said he was shocked when police confronted him with the allegation.

He said he told police, “Raped and beat who? Nina? I don’t know Nina Glover. Can I get my mother in here so I can get a lawyer? And nothing.”

Swift voluntarily turned himself in to police, and was placed in an interrogation room, and surrounded by several detectives.

He said the questioning lasted more than 12 hours, with officers often standing just a few inches away, and yelling at him: “You’re going to die in jail, you’re never going home.”

Swift said he was terrified.

“I was crying, but no one listened,” he said.

He wanted to go home, and he said Police told him if he admitted to raping and killing Glover, he could leave, so he signed a 21-page confession, which gave specific details to how he and the other three boys committed the crime.

“Everything that’s in that confession was fed to us – myself and my co-defendants – by the police,” he said.

Although police didn’t force him to sign, Swift said he did it because, “I thought I was going home.”

Though he admits he wasn’t a child, he said, “I guess I was still a mama’s boy.”

He said he had “no understanding” that, if he confessed, police would not let him go home.

Swift, Richardson and Saunders were convicted at separate trials in 1998, and Thames then pled guilty; but all four were cleared last year by the DNA evidence linking Douglas to the murder.

Attorneys for Swift and his co-defendants have said undeveloped DNA testing in 1996 cleared them as suspects, but prosecutors argued their confessions to police tied them to the crime. It wasn’t until last year that more sophisticated DNA testing confirmed another man was responsible for Glover’s murder.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told Pitts that she is aware of the federal investigation into one of the cases and is cooperating with their probe.

In a written statement on Friday, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said “I have zero tolerance for misconduct, and the cases being referenced occurred nearly two decades ago and do not reflect the present day actions of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department.

Since I became Superintendent, CPD has implemented a number of training protocols to ensure the integrity, professionalism, and accountability throughout this Department to ensure nothing of this nature ever happens again.”

You can see Byron Pitts’ full report this Sunday night on “60 Minutes” on CBS 2.

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