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$50M settlement approved for‘Marquette Park Four’

The Marquette Park Four, a group of four men who each spent 20 years in prison for a conviction based on false confessions, will share a $50 million settlement approved by the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, June 12.

The amount is one of the largest settlements in Chicago history.

Lashawn Ezell, Larod Styles, Charles Johnson and Troshawn McCoy in 2018 filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago. After years of litigation, the group reached a settlement in April and the deal was approved by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District.

After the City Council approved the settlement Wednesday, June 12, the four men said in a joint statement, “We are grateful that the City of Chicago has chosen to resolve our case and allow us to move on with our lives. No amount of money can ever return the years we lost due to Chicago Police misconduct that caused our collective 73 years of wrongful imprisonment. The City of Chicago must take steps to protect our teenagers from police abuses like those we endured.”

The settlement calls for Chicago to pay $21 million and the city’s insurance company to pay $29 million.

The payout arrangement is similar to the city’s settlement with ‘The Englewood Four,’ a group of exonerated men who together received a $31 million settlement in 2017. That settlement had Chicago pay $15 million while the city’s insurance paid $16 million to four men who were exonerated after DNA evidence and false confessions proved their innocence in the rape and murder of a prostitute in 1994.

The men in ‘The Marquette Four’ case were all teenagers in 1995 when they were convicted for murdering Khaled Ibrahim, 30, and Yousef Ali, 32. Ibrahim and Ali owned a used car sales business near 70th Street and Western Avenue in the Marquette Park neighborhood.

An anonymous tip led police to arrest McCoy first, according to a news report. McCoy then implicated Styles, Johnson and Ezell. The men confessed to the crime after they were questioned by former Detective James Cassidy, who has a history for forcing false confessions. Cassidy and another detective in the case, Kenneth Boudreau, worked under disgraced police commander Jon Burge.

After 20 years in prison, McCoy, Styles, Johnson and Ezell filed a post-conviction petition and nearly two dozen fingerprints from cars stolen from the lots at the time of the murder were analyzed. None belonged to any of the four men. The fingerprints were traced to men who had criminal records.

The case had no physical or forensic evidence that linked the four to the crime. Their false confessions were the state’s only evidence used to convict them.

The fingerprints led the Cook County State’s Attorney office to have the men’s convictions thrown out and the men received their certificates of innocence.

The men’s post-conviction was one of Kim Foxx’s first exoneration cases. The men were exonerated in December 2017, months after Foxx took office.

“These actions were not an aberration – it was behavior that encouraged, supported and was concealed by the Chicago Police Department for years,” said Alexa Van Brunt, an attorney with the MacArthur Justice Center, which has represented more than a dozen victims of wrongful convictions in civil suits in recent years. The MacArthur Justice Center represents Johnson.

“Larod Styles was just two weeks past his 16th birthday when he was arrested, isolated, and interrogated for hours by the police until they got a false confession,” said Terry Campbell, an attorney with Corsirilos Tighe Streicker Poulos and Campbell, which represents Styles.

“He did not see another day outside a prison until he was almost 37 years old. It is difficult to imagine the devastation wreaked on Larod’s life, and the lives of his equally innocent co-defendants, by this utterly wrongful conviction that stole virtually his entire youth and young adulthood.”

Jon Loevy, Ezelle’s attorney, said “These boys were just teenagers — Lashawn was only 15 years old. How many false confessions and wrongful convictions is it going to take before someone asks what in the world was going on in the Chicago Police Department?”

Since Foxx took office, she has had 250 cases connected to Burge and disgraced Detective Reynaldo Guevara thrown out.

The Marquette Four is not the only case that Cassidy was accused of forcing false confessions while working under Burge. Cassidy in 1998 had two boys, ages 7 and 8, arrested and charged with a rape and murder. Those boys were exonerated after questions were raised as to how semen that was found on the victim came from two prepubescent boys.

DNA evidence led police to Floyd Durr, who died in April in prison while serving life plus 30 years in prison for the murder.

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