Cook County Board Set to Approve $17M Settlement With Jackie Wilson, Who Spent Decades Behind Bars Following Wrongful Murder Conviction

Jackie Wilson responds to a question from the media at a news conference announcing a lawsuit filed on his behalf on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (WTTW News)Jackie Wilson responds to a question from the media at a news conference announcing a lawsuit filed on his behalf on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (WTTW News)

Cook County officials are set to approve a $17 million settlement with a man who spent more than three decades in prison after he was allegedly tortured by officers working under infamous Chicago police Commander Jon Burge into confessing to a pair of murders he didn’t commit.

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The Cook County Board of Commissioners will vote this week on the proposed settlement with Jackie Wilson, who was convicted of the 1982 killings of Chicago police Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien, based largely on a false confession he said he gave after he was repeatedly beaten and electroshocked.

Wilson was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders in 1983. That conviction was tossed out in 1987, but Wilson was tried again two years later.

According to a 2021 lawsuit Wilson filed, during that second trial, prosecutors and police continued “fabricating additional false evidence and withholding exculpatory evidence.” That included former Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko, who allegedly conspired with a jailhouse informant, William David Coleman, to “fabricate a false story that falsely implicated” Wilson.

Wilson was acquitted of Fahey’s death, but was convicted a second time of O’Brien’s murder, and was again sentenced to life in prison.

That’s where Wilson remained for the next 29 years until 2018, when Cook County Judge William Hooks ruled that Wilson’s confession had been coerced. Hooks tossed out Wilson’s conviction and granted him yet another trial, but this time, his false confession could not be used against him.

Special prosecutors brought in to handle this third trial again relied on Coleman’s story implicating Wilson. But after two weeks, those prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against Wilson after it was revealed that Trutenko had allegedly lied on the witness stand by suppressing the fact that he had an ongoing “illicit relationship” with Coleman.

Last March, special prosecutor Lawrence Oliver announced Trutenko and his fellow former Assistant State’s Attorney Andrew Horvat had been charged in connection to the botched prosecution.

According to Oliver, Trutenko maintained a continuous 30-year friendship with Coleman — which included representing Coleman in a hearing before the Chicago Police Board about Burge’s torture allegations and acting as godfather to one of Coleman’s children.

Trutenko faces charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, violations of the Local Records Act and official misconduct, while Horvat faces multiple counts of official misconduct. The pair went to trial late last year, but the proceedings have been paused for months due to an ongoing appeal.

Wilson’s attorneys declined to comment Tuesday.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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