innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

110 Arrests in Doubt

This article appeard in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times on September 29, 2006:

110 Arrests in Doubt: Prosecutors Must Drop Cases of 9 Chicago Officers in Scandal's Shadow

By David Heinzmann and Carlos Sadovi

CHICAGO — Top Cook County prosecutors have ordered their staff to drop any case that nine special-operations police officers had a significant role in handling, which could nullify the arrests of 110 people charged in gun, drug, burglary and violence cases, according to a memo circulated this month in the Cook County state's attorney's office. Four of the Chicago police officers have been charged with robberies and kidnappings. Prosecutors have alleged they falsely arrested many people.

The other five officers have been stripped of their police powers but not charged. Prosecutors decided to drop their cases because they doubted the cases could proceed with police witnesses stripped of their authority.Those officers could eventually be exonerated, but "there's no timetable on how long those investigations will take," said Bernard Murray, chief of felony prosecutions for the state's attorney's office.

State's Atty. Richard A. Devine had earlier said his office planned to review whether cases needed to be dropped. The Sept. 12 memo instructs staffers to drop any case in which the nine officers made the arrest, recovered physical evidence, signed a search warrant or provided information from an informant that led to the arrest.

Murray said the memo, listing 110 arrests tied to the officers, was written to guide prosecutors on how to proceed. "We made the decision to err on the side of caution," he said.

One case to be dropped, alleging drug dealing, involves a suspect who separately has been charged with murder. In the drug case, the arresting officer was one of the policemen charged this month; the murder case does not involve detectives connected to the officers' charges. The drug and murder cases had been moving through the courts together, but now only the murder case will move forward.

"We cannot prove our cases," Murray said. "The cases where the defendant was indicted and they were the main officers, we cannot sustain the burden of proof."

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