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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Man May Press Coerced Murder Confession Case

CHICAGO (CN) - A man coerced into confessing to the brutal murder of his eight-year-old daughter and wrongly imprisoned for five years will get one more chance to convince a federal judge that his claims are still timely.

In May 2005, Jerry Hobbs found the bodies of his eight-year-old daughter, Laura, and her friend, Krystal, in the park by their house in Zion, Illinois. Laura had been sexually assaulted and stabbed twenty times, including in both eyes. Krystal had been stabbed eleven times.

The police immediately questioned Hobbs as a suspect and interrogated him for 24 hours, without permitting him to speak to a lawyer.

During the interrogation, the police officers beat him when he insisted on his innocence, stripped him naked, repeatedly showed him pictures of his daughter's body, asked questions such as "How did their neck feel when you cut it?" and falsely told him his family believed he was guilty.

Finally, Hobbs said he would confess, "thinking that a judge would see that his confession was forced," according to the judgment. In his confession, Hobbs claimed that he stabbed the girls with a potato peeler, "thinking a judge would realize that a potato peeler could not have inflicted those types of wounds on the girls," the judgment continued.

The officers forced Hobbs to read his confession on camera by threatening to charge his wife with the murders. This confession was the only evidence held against Hobbs when he was charged.

For the next five years, Hobbs was held in jail in isolation, until sperm found on Laura's dress was matched to Jorge Torrez, a friend of Krystal's brother. Hobbs' case never went to trial, and he was released after spending 1,912 days in jail.

He then sued the officers who interrogated him and the prosecutors on his case for coercing his confession, failure to intervene and malicious prosecution.

However, the court found many of Hobbs' claims time-barred by Illinois' two-year statute of limitations, because the coerced confession took place five years beforehand. It rejected Hobbs' contention that his extended detention must delay the accrual of his claims.

Hobbs argued that "defendants actively prevented him from timely filing the present action by placing him in total isolation, preventing him from interacting with other inmates, denying him access to the law library, and preventing him from consulting with lawyers," U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow said.

"Hobbs's position is perplexing considering that defendants were not his jailers; and the complaint fails to allege that defendants somehow controlled the day-to-day conditions of his incarceration," the judge continued.

"Hobbs was incarcerated for five years. He must plead specific facts demonstrating that despite his due diligence, he was unable to learn of the accrual of his claims and was otherwise prevented from filing his claims during this time. Rather than foreclose relief, the court will allow Hobbs leave to replead his tolling claim to allege specific facts that show that the conditions of his confinement prevented him from asserting his rights in some extraordinary way," Lefkow concluded.

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