60 Years in Prison After Police Coercion, 4 Say

     CHICAGO (CN) – Four men convicted as teenagers of the rape and murder of a prostitute each spent at least 15 years in prison after Chicago police coerced them into falsely confessing to the crime, the men say in separate federal complaints.
     Terrill Swift sued the City of Chicago, Cook County, Dets. Kenneth Boudreau, Richard Paladino, James Cassidy, the Estate of Thomas Coughlin, William Foley, F. Valadez, P. MacCafferty, Sgt. L. Tuldier, and Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Terence Johnson.
     Swift’s co-defendants, and now co-plaintiffs-Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames and Harold Richardson-filed similar lawsuits. Each man is represented by separate counsel.
     “Terrill was arrested at the age of 17 for the brutal rape and strangulation-murder of a woman named Nina Glover, who was known to be involved in prostitution. Ms. Glover’s nude body was found in a Dumpster, wrapped in a sheet, on the morning of November 7, 1994,” Swift’s complaint states.
     “Terrill Swift is innocent of this horrific crime. No physical evidence connected him to the murder. The sum total of the evidence against him was his false confession, which was fabricated and coerced by an Assistant State’s Attorney and Chicago police detectives with a long and notorious history of similar acts of misconduct.
     “Although Terrill and his four teen-aged co-defendants all confessed to raping and murdering the victim, physical evidence, including DNA evidence, available at the time of Terrill’s conviction excluded all five of them as the perpetrators of the murder,” Swift’s 28-page complaint claims states.
     After Swift served his time and was released on parole as a sex offender in 2010, he filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing.
     Over the state’s objection, a lab tested the DNA collected from Glover post-mortem and police matched it to Johnny Douglas, also known as “Maniac,” according to the new complaints.
     “At the time of Nina Glover’s murder, Douglas was a 29-year-old convicted felon with a lengthy criminal history involving physical violence, who was at the crime scene the morning that Ms. Glover’s body was discovered by the Chicago police. Neither Terrill nor any of his co-defendants (ranging in age from 15 to 18 years old) knew or had any association with Douglas,” Swift claims.
     By 1994, Douglas already had a long criminal history, including 60 Chicago arrests and 27 convictions, according to Saunders’ 51-page complaint.
     “Although Douglas was known to the police at the time Nina Glover’s body was discovered, the defendants instead focused their attention on framing Terrill Swift and his codefendants. Tragically, Douglas was allowed to remain free as a result. Douglas was later convicted of the strangulation-murder of a prostitute named Gytonne Marsh, charged with the strangulation-murder of another prostitute named Elaine Martin, and implicated in at least five other violent physical and sexual assaults of prostitutes between 1993 and 1997, one just weeks before Nina Glover’s murder,” Swift claims.
     In 2008, a woman murdered Douglas and was acquitted of wrongdoing, claiming-self defense, Saunders says in his complaint.
     Based on the DNA evidence, a Cook County judge granted Swift and his co-defendants certificates of innocence in September 2012 and released Richardson and Saunders from prison, after they had served more than 16 years of their sentences.
     “Just 17 years old when he was arrested, Terrill Swift spent 15 years of his life incarcerated in maximum-security institutions, separated from his family and friends, and robbed of the most basic of freedoms. As a result of the defendants’ misconduct, he was imprisoned during his most formative years, when he would otherwise have been graduating from high school, pursuing a career, and starting a family,” Swift says.
     All four men seek punitive damages for violations of due process, coercive interrogation, failure to intervene, conspiracy, and malicious prosecution.
     Swift is represented by Alexa Van Brunt with the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law, with assistance from Flint Taylor at the People’s Law Office.
     Saunders is represented by Peter Neufeld with Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin.
     Thames is represented by Stuart Chanen with the Valorem Law Group.
     Richardson is represented by Rachel Steinback with Loevy & Loevy.

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