By Frederick H. Lowe
When the umpire yells play ball at Thursday’s Chicago White Sox game, Nevest Coleman will be safe at home with the team that rehired him after he spent nearly 21 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.
Coleman was released from prison on November 20, 2017, when the Cook County State’s Attorney vacated his conviction after DNA evidence cleared him of murder, kidnapping and rape charges. He was sentenced to prison when he was 25; he is now 49.
In March, he rejoined the White Sox grounds crew at Guaranteed Rate Field, assuming a job he held when the stadium was Comiskey Park. His job involves power washing, working with the tarp and other odd jobs.
Coleman said he’s happy to be back. “They did not have to hire me back,” he told MLB.com. “I appreciate the White Sox giving me the opportunity.” The White Sox also are happy he’s back. Several photos of a smiling Coleman appear on the team’s website.
He last worked for the team in 1994 when he was sentenced to life plus 30 years for the April 28, 1994 murder of Antwinica Bridgeman, whose body was found the basement of an apartment building on Chicago’s South Side, according to the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.
Although Coleman denied any knowledge of the crime, and there wasn’t any physical evidence linking him to Bridgeman’s horrible murder, a court convicted him of all charges based on the testimony of unscrupulous Chicago detectives who had a history of destroying the lives of innocent men by sending them to prison. Before his conviction, Coleman, a father and now a grandfather, never had been arrested.
Nearly 20 years after his conviction, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s conviction integrity unit began re-investigating his case. In August 2017, Russell Ainsworth, an Exoneration Project attorney, filed a post-conviction petition on behalf of Coleman based on DNA evidence that cleared him of the crimes.
Coleman’s petition also cited evidence that four detectives investigating his case had been involved in several other wrongful convictions by wringing, beating or writing false confessions and having terrified suspects sign the documents under duress.
In 1992, Detectives Kenneth Boudreau and William Halloran, forced Peter Williams to confess to the murder of a woman, but evidence showed he was in jail at the time the crime was committed.
On the first day Coleman arrived for work after being released from prison, he was greeted Jerry Powe, an old friend who is now his supervisor. Powe was a character witness for Coleman.
The White Sox will open their homestand on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers, but Coleman hopes it rains so he can run on the field and roll out the tarp.