Illinois Lawsuits Seek Police Dept. Records

     CHICAGO (CN) – In the wake of the release of video showing the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, lawsuits continue to demand more accountability from Chicago and Illinois police.
     Charles Green, who was sentenced to life in prison at age 16, “has always maintained his innocence” and says the Chicago Police Department did not respond to his Freedom of Information Act request for “any and all closed complaint register files that relate to Chicago police officers,” according to his Dec. 4 lawsuit.
     The city was ordered to destroy the files in November due to a clause in the police union’s contract that says police misconduct files can only be kept for four years. It planned to release all of the files it had, dating back to 1967, last year, but the union sued to stop the city.
     According to his complaint, Green was convicted of accountability murder, aggravated arson, residential burglary, home invasion, armed robbery and armed violence in 1986.
     He says he testified against two other innocent individuals and said he was involved in the incident because officers told him he would go home to his mother and family if he did. At the time, Green was not provided a lawyer and his mother was denied access to him, he claims.
     One of the victims of the crime even “described two other individuals…as the perpetrators of the heinous crime,” but the testimony was thrown out in court as hearsay, according to the lawsuit.
     The complaint says “the lead detective, John Summerville, has a long and notorious history of abusing persons in custody to coerce inculpatory statement.”
     Green’s attorney, Jared Kosoglad, said the records they requested could include evidence of his innocence. Green was released after spending 16 years in prison, but hasn’t been able to be declared innocent yet.
     “It is obvious that he was wrongfully convicted,” Kosoglad said, adding that in 10 years of cases Green’s trial is “the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen.”
     In his lawsuit, Green claims Chicago “has been wrongfully convicting persons on the basis of false and fabricated evidence for the life of its existence.”
     The city is “knowingly imprisoning innocent people,” Kosoglad said. The attorney also called the “systemic indifference” to it “outrageous.”
     There are “a lot of innocent people in jail and a lot of officers who deserve to be in jail,” he said.
     Kosoglad added that “it makes no sense to destroy records of misconduct” that “people need in order to prove they were wrongfully convicted.”
     He said, if you look at the data on officers, “it’s amazing how immediately you can see patterns of wrongdoing.”
     Green requested all of the records the city has because, according to Kosoglad, “it’s more than just about him. It’s about everybody.”
     An Illinois judge issued an emergency ruling last week that the city must alert the media before the records are destroyed and others, including journalist and activist Jamie Kalven who petitioned the court for the ruling, hope to get the files before they’re gone.
     “Lying is the biggest problem our police department faces,” Kosoglad said. “Secrecy is their best weapon.”
     The Chicago Police Department referred Courthouse News to the city’s legal department, which could not be reached for comment.
     A second lawsuit filed last week against the Illinois State Police aims to hold the state responsible for making more data available to the public on all homicides that have happened in the state.
     Thomas Hargrove, head of the Alexandria, Va.-based Murder Accountability Project, or MAP, requested “records showing the homicide data that Illinois State Police no longer reports to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and Supplementary Homicide Report,” according to his Dec. 3 lawsuit.
     State police denied Hargrove’s request, allegedly claiming it had no responsive documents.
     Hargrove, a former investigative journalist, says he started the nonprofit MAP this summer after he “became aware of how messed up murder data was in this country” while working on a project five years ago.
     Through its website murderdata.org, MAP’s goal is to provide data to educate the public about homicides.
     Hargrove also does training seminars to show investigative units how they can use MAP’s data to look for patterns in homicides.
     At one of the seminars, Hargrove says he told police that “Illinois is a black hole” when it comes to reporting homicide information, especially those that have been cleared – those for which someone has been arrested and charged.
     Hargrove says Illinois is the largest jurisdiction that only reports the minimum required by the FBI to receive federal assistance, which is a body count.
     MAP’s website says the group “contends the general public has a right to know the details of unsolved homicides, including how many unsolved murders have been committed in Illinois.”
     “It’s the worst in the country,” Hargrove said. “We think there are missing bodies in Illinois.”
     People have a right to know about deaths in their state and “someone should be accountable for murders,” he said.
     He adds that Illinois is “one of those places where most murders go unsolved,” but MAP won’t know for sure until it has the data.
     The group intends to go after more states to get the data they need, and have been checking reports from medical examiners to compare the data from police departments. By doing so, says Hargrove, they’ve found “considerable discrepancies” in murder rates.
     “I think we’re going to make headway,” Hargrove said. “Sooner or later we’re going to help catch somebody.”
     Hargrove and MAP are represented by Matthew Topic of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.
     Illinois State Police told Courthouse News that they cannot comment on pending litigation.

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