CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen were scheduled to vote next week on a $31 million settlement with the “Englewood Four,” who spent years in prison for rape and murder before DNA evidence pointed to a different suspect.
Six years ago, a Cook County judge threw out the convictions of Terrill Swift, Vincent Thames, Michael Saunders, and Harold Richardson in the 1994 rape and murder of 30-year-old Nina Glover. Prosecutors formally dropped charges against them two months later.
All four were teenagers when they were convicted, but claimed police coerced them into false confessions.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting of the City Council Finance Committee shows the committee will review a $30,990,000 payout to settle federal lawsuits filed by each of the four men.
The four were cleared after new DNA evidence linked the crime to Johnny “Maniac” Douglas, a convicted killer and sex offender who had been convicted in a similar case in 1997, and was present when Glover’s naked body was found in a dumpster on Nov. 7, 1994. Douglas was shot and killed in 2008.
Swift and Thames had served 15 years in prison and were released two years before they were cleared. Saunders and Richardson spent 17 years behind bars before they went free.
All four later filed federal lawsuits against the city, alleging police brought in each teen over the course of a few days after Glover was killed 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.
“What did I lose? My youth. … We were abducted,” Swift said in 2012 when the four men filed their lawsuits. “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 2011 that DNA confirmed Douglas was responsible for Glover’s murder.
“[Police] knew that they were letting some violent criminal a complete pass. And he went out and did it again, and again, and again,” Attorney Stuart Chanen said.
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.