By Frederick H. Lowe
Thirty-one African-American men who had their lives upended and almost destroyed after being sentenced to prison, based on false testimony by a black Chicago police sergeant and his crew of police officers, had their convictions vacated last year.
The defendants were exonerated last year after testimony by the cops turned out to be nothing but lies based on fabricated evidence.
The National Registry of Exonerations announced Wednesday in its 2018 exonerations report police officers led by Sergeant Ronald Watts framed the men and some women on the drug charges and in one case, a weapons’ charge because they refused to pay the cops bribes to stay out of prison.
From 1996 to 2017, Watts and his tactical team terrorized residents of the Ida B. Wells Housing Project, named in honor of Wells, a journalist who exposed terrorist lynchings of the black men and black women by whites, but Wells would not have been able to protect her people from another form of lynching led by Watts.
Cook County States’ Attorney Kim Foxx, who is under fire from the Fraternal Order of Police for being soft on crime for her handling of the case of actor Jussie Smollett, overturned the men’s wrongful convictions. She worked with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago, which first reported on the convictions.
Last year, 1,639 years, an average of 10.9 years were lost per exoneree. The total number of years lost to exonerees exceeded 20,000 in September 2018 and has since passed 21,000, The National Registry of Exonerations reported.
Illinois reported 49 exonerations, which made the Land of Lincoln the leader in reversed wrongful convictions.
Illinois was followed by New York (16), Texas (16), Michigan ( 9) and California (6). Of the 151 exonerations, 146 occurred
in 28 states and five federal cases. The National Registry of Exonerations has recorded 2,372 exonerations in the United States from 1989 through the end of 2018.
The leading causes of exonerations are false confessions, mistaken eyewitness identification, DNA evidence, misconduct by government officials, false confessions, and perjury or false accusations.
Richard Philips, 46, and Wilbert Jones, 44, served the most time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Philips spent 46 years and two months in Michigan prisons for murder and Jones spent 44 years and nine months in Louisiana prisons for sexual assault.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a joint project of the University of California Irvine, Michigan State University College of Law and the Newkirk Center for Science, and Society at the University of Michigan Law School.