Pay $50M to 4 Men Who Each Spent Nearly 20 Years in Prison for Double Murder They Didn’t Commit, City Lawyers Recommend

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Chicago should pay $50 million to four men who each spent 20 years in prison after being convicted in connection with a 1995 double murder based on confessions coerced by Chicago Police detectives trained by Jon Burge, a disgraced Chicago police commander, city lawyers recommended.

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The Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee is set on Monday to consider the proposed settlement, which calls for taxpayers to pay $21 million and the city’s insurance company to pay $29 million. A final vote of the City Council could come on June 12.

Lashawn Ezell, LaRod Styles, Charles Johnson and Troshawn McCoy were all teenagers when they were charged with the murders of Khaled Ibrahim, 30, and Yousef Ali, 32, who owned a car sales business near 70th Street and Western Avenue on the city’s Southwest Side.

All four defendants, who became known as the “Marquette Park Four,” were exonerated in 2017 after Cook County prosecutors dropped the charges against them. Styles, who was 16 at the time of the murder, and Johnson, who was 19 at the time of the murder, had been sentenced to life in prison.

Ezell, who was 15 at the time of the double murder, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of robbery. McCoy, who was 17 at the time of the murder, was sentenced to 55 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder.

All have recieved certificates of innocence from a judge.

McCoy was the first of the group to be arrested, based on an anonymous tip, court records show. After McCoy implicated Styles, Johnson and Ezell, all four confessed after questioning by former Detective James Cassidy.

The lawsuits also name former Detective Kenneth Boudreau, who also reported to Burge.

Detectives trained by Burge have faced dozens of lawsuits and complaints alleging they physically abused those they suspected of committing crimes to cocerce confessions.

No physical or forensic evidence linked the four to the crime, making their confessions the only evidence against them, records show.

More than a decade after the four were convicted, fingerprints from cars stolen from the lots at the time of the murder were analyzed. None belonged to any of the four people convicted of the double murder, but were traced to men who had criminal records.

No one has ever been convicted in the murders of Ibrahim and Ali.

Cassidy reported to Burge and was involved in several other high-profile cases that relied on confessions that were later tossed out.

In one case, two boys, ages 7 and 8, were arrested and charged with the 1998 murder of 11-year-old Ryan Harris after questioning from Cassidy. Those charges were dropped when they were exonerated.

Cassidy was also involved in a case that sent five other Black teens to prison for more than 15 years after they falsely confessed to Chicago police detectives, records show.

City officials have acknowledged that Burge tortured and beat more than 100 Black men, from the 1970s to the 1990s. Chicago taxpayers have already paid approximately $115 million in lawsuit settlements and judgments, including $5.5 million in reparations for torture survivors, approved in 2015 by the City Council.

Fired by the Chicago Police Department in 1993, Burge was convicted of perjury in 2010. Released from prison in 2014, Burge died four years later at the age of 70. He never faced criminal charges related to his time as an officer, and collected a pension from the city of Chicago until the day he died.

Since 2019, Chicago taxpayers have spent $178 million to resolve lawsuits brought by more than three dozen people wrongfully convicted based on evidence gathered by Chicago Police Department officers, according to an analysis of city data by WTTW News.

WTTW News identified seven major causes of police misconduct lawsuits, with wrongful convictions costing Chicago taxpayers approximately three times as much as the next most frequent cause of payouts, excessive force.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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