Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 11, 2024
$50 Million Settlement for 'Marquette Park 4' Rights Decades-Long Wrongful Conviction WoesSource: Unsplash/Tingey Injury Law Firm

A historic $50 million settlement is on the brink of approval by the Chicago City Council, positioned to address the egregious miscarriage of justice faced by four men, known as the "Marquette Park 4," who were wrongfully convicted for a 1995 double murder. Poised to be the city's largest police misconduct settlement, the sum will be shared among LaShawn Ezell, Troshawn McCoy, Charles Johnson, and Larod Styles, as well as their legal representation, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

After having spent a collective 73 years behind bars, the men were exonerated when fingerprint evidence failed to link them to the crime scene and instead matched another individual. While the city's finance committee has already given the settlement a unanimous nod, putting the agreement in await of council approval on Wednesday, looming questions of accountability hang over the Chicago Police Department, whose detectives have been accused of forcing the false confessions. The forensic reexamination, which cast a new light on the case, was possible due to a unique Illinois law allowing post-conviction fingerprint testing.

In addition to the fingerprints, concerns surfaced regarding the integrity of witness testimonies and the state's disclosure practices during the original investigation. According to the Chicago Tribune, McCoy was initially mentioned in an anonymous tip, prompting seasoned detectives Cassidy and Boudreau—with questionable histories of obtaining dubious confessions—to pursue them, ultimately culminating in their juveniles' confessions and wrongful convictions.

Once the settlement is approved, it will not only represent financial remuneration for the time wrongfully served but will also underscore the systemic flaws within the CPD's process that have allowed such miscarriages of justice. The city's legal representation described the settlement as "fiscally prudent," considering the potential for substantially higher jury awards in similar cases. Deputy Corporation Counsel Jessica Felker underscored the comparison to past trials, stating, "The last trial we had, they got over $1 million-per-year. I’m not aware of anybody getting $2 million-per-year," in a meeting noted by the Sun-Times.

Beyond this settlement, the city's committee gave the green light to three other agreements totaling over $9 million for various grievances, ranging from enduring systemic racism within the Department of Water Management to the tragic outcomes of excessive force by police. Among these, the accounts of a $1.25 million settlement for a motorist injured by a poorly maintained light pole and a $2 million settlement for the 2014 shooting of Ronald Johnson typify the array of oversight challenges and cultural deficiencies confronting Chicago's municipal systems.