CHICAGO (CN) – A man wrongfully convicted of murder and who spent more than two decades in prison before his exoneration, sued the city of Chicago on Thursday for withholding evidence that would have proved his innocence at trial.
Eddie Bolden was freed last April after spending 22 years in prison for two murders he says he did not commit.
His release was engineered by a private investigator who took on the case for free and found three people to testify that Bolden was with them inside a South Side fish restaurant at the time of the shooting.
The victims had entered the same restaurant shortly before driving away with a man to whom they intended to sell multiple kilograms of cocaine. This man shot and killed them both.
Bolden says he was playing a video game inside the restaurant when the lookout, Clifford Frazier, who was shot but not killed, ran in to seek help, and Bolden himself called 911.
A state judge ruled that Bolden’s public defense attorney gave him ineffective assistance by never calling those alibi witnesses to testify at his trial.
Cook County prosecutors decided to release Bolden rather than re-try him. He has since been granted a certificate of innocence.
On Thursday, Bolden filed a civil rights suit against the city.
“Not a single piece of physical or forensic evidence linked Mr. Bolden to these crimes,” the complaint claims. “Instead, Mr. Bolden’s wrongful conviction rested solely upon evidence created by the defendants, including Clifford Frazier’s false identification of Mr. Bolden during a tainted lineup.”
Although Frazier offered a physical description of the killer that did not match Bolden, the officers allegedly walked Frazier past Bolden immediately before the line-up and called Bolden by name – both actions known to influence witness identifications during lineups.
“In addition to engineering the false lineup, the defendant officers intentionally caused Mr. Bolden’s wrongful conviction by offering perjured testimony at trial about the propriety of the lineup, by disregarding and failing to investigate credible eye-witness testimony that would have cleared Mr. Bolden of all charges, and by destroying and withholding critical information and evidence that proved Mr. Bolden’s innocence,” the complaint claims.
Bolden was only 27 when he was convicted, and never got to see his son grow up. Days after his release, he attended his son’s college graduation.
He seeks punitive damages for violation of his civil rights, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy.
Chicago has a long history of misconduct against black suspects. Police officers have been convicted of subjecting suspects to long interrogation, even torture, and fabricating evidence against them in order to “solve” cases at any cost.
Just last week, the Justice Department released a scathing report finding grave failures in the police department’s training and accountability that it said are to blame for civil rights violations, especially against African American citizens.
Bolden is represented by Ronald S. Safer with Riley, Safer, Holmes & Cancila.
The city did not respond to a request for comment.