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Freed Man Says Chicago Cops Coerced Confession

CHICAGO (CN) - A man exonerated of murdering his childhood friend after spending 27 years in prison claims in court that police beat and manipulated him until he confessed.

Daniel Andersen sued the City of Chicago, James Bednarkiewicz, James Higgins, and 12 other police officers in Federal Court, claiming he was coerced during a 16-hour interrogation.

"In 1982, plaintiff Daniel Andersen was wrongfully convicted of a heinous crime: the murder and attempted rape of a young woman near her home in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood," the complaint begins.

But Andersen says he "had nothing to do with the crime for which he was wrongfully convicted. He is completely innocent."

Andersen was exonerated in 2014 after he had been released from prison, when DNA testing excluded him as the murderer. He spent more than 27 years behind bars, and was required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

The victim, a childhood friend of Andersen's, was found stabbed to death on the sidewalk a block away from her home on Jan. 19, 1980.

Police officers allegedly picked Andersen up five days later after he had been out drinking with friends. They took him to the station and physically assaulted him to coerce him into signing a false confession, Andersen says.

Andersen claims police pressured him to confess for 16 hours while denying him food, water and access to the bathroom. They also allegedly refused to allow him to call his parents, although he was only 19 years old.

"By the end of the interrogation, the defendants succeeded in overcoming plaintiff's will; plaintiff was so confused and broken that he had no choice but to obey defendant [James] Higgins and confess to a crime he did not commit," Andersen's lawsuit states.

When his parents picked him up from the station, Andersen was visibly mentally unstable, and somehow believed that Higgins was his attorney, according to the complaint.

Although he recanted his confession, a jury convicted him of the murder with the confession as the state's central piece of evidence.

DNA testing, which Andersen pursued even after his release from prison, found that the blood on the murder weapon was neither his nor the victims. In addition, DNA found under the victim's nails could not have come from Andersen, the Feb. 4 lawsuit states.

Andersen says he is a victim of a longstanding Chicago Police Department practice of coercing confessions.

"The Chicago Police Department has a long history of using physically and psychologically coercive interrogation tactics in order to elicit statements from suspects in criminal cases, which has caused false confessions and led to wrongful convictions," the 37-page complaint states.

The coerced confession, plus officers' failure to follow up on potential leads that might have led to the real killer, has left the perpetrator on the streets, according to the complaint.

"To this day, the crime remains unsolved," the complaint states. "By focusing exclusively on the wrong man, the Chicago Police Department has let the real killer remain at large for three decades."

Andersen seeks punitive damages for violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, destruction of evidence, conspiracy, failure to intervene, malicious prosecution and emotional distress.

He is represented by Roshna Bala Keen of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.

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