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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Exonerated Man Says Cops Forced Confession

CHICAGO (CN) - A black man spent 15 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit because Chicago police officers coerced him and five other teens into false confessions, the exonerated man claims in court.

Paul Phillips filed the federal complaint Friday against the city of Chicago, nine police officers, and unidentified city employees.

Blaming "fabrication and coercion of inculpatory evidence, and the hiding of exculpatory evidence," Phillips says he "was entirely innocent ... of a brutal homicide" for which he was arrested on Dec. 3, 1992.

The victims, Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook, were killed on Nov. 16, 1992.

Phillips says the case had gone cold until Lewis Gardner, a 15-year-old boy with an IQ of 70, implicated himself, Phillips, and five other young men after a 15-hour interrogation.

Phillips, who was 17 at the time, "spent the next 15 years in jail and prison, followed by three more years on mandatory supervised release and several more years suffering the stigma of being a convicted murderer, before he was exonerated in June of 2014," the complaint states.

Two other men charged in the murders have also filed complaints for their wrongful convictions and incarcerations.

Like these men, Phillips says he was coerced into giving a false confession.

"The abuse and coercion of Paul Phillips included holding him for 24 hours without parents although he just turned 17, depriving him of sleep and food, yelling at him and pointing in his face, and promising him that he could go home if he cooperated and repeated the fabricated story that was being fed to him by the defendants," the complaint states.

The false confession that the police instructed Phillips to give revolved around a boy, Daniel Taylor, who allegedly masterminded the home invasion.

But Taylor was allegedly in police custody at the time police placed him at the scene of the time.

Rather than search for the real killers, the police found support for the concocted confessions by "fabricat[ing] an encounter between department officers and Taylor on the street near Mr. Lassiter's apartment at around 9:30 p.m. on November 16, 1992, when Taylor was actually in police custody."

Phillips says he was convicted solely on the basis of his false confession, as no physical evidence tied him to the murders.

Evidence of the coercion prompted the vacatur of Phillips' conviction in June 2014, according to the complaint.

Phillips seeks damages for violation of his Fifth and 14th Amendment rights, failure to intervene, malicious prosecution, emotional distress, and conspiracy.

He is represented by Flint Taylor with the People's Law Office.

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