CHICAGO (CBS) — A beloved attorney is killed in a freak accident.
She fought for the wrongfully convicted, giving them a second chance at life.
Two of those men are sharing their stories with CBS 2’s Chris Tye.
Karen Daniel is a name you may not know. But in the legal community, her ivy league education coupled with her off-the-charts compassion made her a person everyone from the states attorney to the dean at Northwestern’s law school are remembering fondly.
When the revolving doors of justice released Marcel Brown last year for a murder he never committed, Karen Daniel cheered the loudest.
“I can’t think about my freedom without thinking about her. It’s heartbreaking,” Brown said.
She made those doors move that day, and in the years leading up to it.
“She was very strong. A fighter, a force in the courtroom,” Brown said.
That force proved to an appellate court that when police questioned Brown at age 18, they coerced a confession from him after 34 hours of questioning.
“She knew this day coming. She told me (and) I believed it,” he said. But the day he couldn’t see coming was Thursday.
“I talked to her the day before yesterday (Christmas.) It still seems unreal,” Brown said.
The 62-year-old was walking down a street in Oak Park Thursday morning when she was hit by a truck.
She died from what police are calling an accident.
Eric Blackmon is another of the nearly 20 people Karen helped to free. On Friday, he and Marcel lit a candle in honor of the woman whose fire for justice allows them to walk free.
“Just the amount of integrity that she operated with can’t be put into words. She’s a hero to a lot of us,” Blackmon said.
“She gave me life, gave me hope. When I lost everything, she gave me hope,” Brown added.
The dean at Northwestern’s law school said she was universally loved by her students, by her clients and her colleagues alike.
Daniel had recently retired but was still privately working to free those who were wrongly convicted. The Center on Wrongful Convictions will continue to do the work that she spent her whole life working towards.