Nearly eight months after Jackie Wilson’s wrongful prosecution was dismissed with prejudice, Cook County Judge Alfredo Maldonado has ruled that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate and prosecute current and former Assistant Cook County State’s Attorneys.
In a rare turn of events, the prosecutors are alleged by the court to have committed criminal misconduct in an effort to secure Mr. Wilson’s wrongful conviction, for which he wrongly served 36 years behind bars. Some of this prosecutorial misconduct was unearthed in the latest retrial of Wilson, one of the most prominent victims of police torture led by the late, disgraced Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge.
Wilson was wrongfully convicted of the 1982 killings of Chicago Police Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien, after he and his brother Andrew were brought into Area 2 and tortured into giving statements by Burge and his crew.
In 2017, Wilson’s case was brought back to court for further review after Illinois’ Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC) found there was sufficient evidence that he was tortured.
After 18 months of litigation and a four-day evidentiary hearing, Circuit Court Judge William H. Hooks issued a 119-page opinion that found that Wilson’s false confession should be suppressed, and he be ordered a new trial.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office immediately appealed Judge Hooks’ decision. After a review of the evidence and briefings, the Illinois Appellate Court entered a unanimous written decision on December 10, 2019 affirming the decision.
Authored by Justice Terrence J. Lavin, the court said that “the State, as represented by the special prosecutors in this case, demonstrated a stunning level of denial about the well-established practice of torture in Area 2 and findings of torture made by the special prosecutors’ own predecessors.”
“We believe that this is the first-ever appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for misconduct in a wrongful conviction case,” said Elliot Slosar, one of Wilson’s attorneys.
Wilson’s attorneys believe that this is also the first referral for an investigation of Cook County State’s Attorneys for criminal misconduct in their duties as prosecutors since the federal ‘Operation Greylord’ prosecution in the 1980s.
On October 1, 2020, the special prosecutor in Wilson’s retrial abruptly dropped all charges against him when it was revealed that a then-CCSAO prosecutor, Nicholas Trutenko, concealed a witness named William Coleman. Coleman is a reputed international con man who repeatedly perjured himself decades ago to secure Wilson’s conviction.
The 36-year wrongful prosecution of Jackie Wilson ended with a dismissal with prejudice after the Special Prosecutor’s Office disclosed that Trutenko committed perjury on the stand.
In December 2020, Jackie Wilson was awarded a Certificate of Innocence by the State of Illinois for his 36-year wrongful conviction.
Since October 1, 2020, Wilson’s lawyers have sought accountability – through a motion for sanctions, and most recently, a petition for the appointment of a special prosecutor – of those responsible for the egregious prosecutorial misconduct that contributed to his more than three decades behind bars.
Judge Alfredo Maldonado ordered that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate whether Trutenko engaged in criminal conduct. Because of the actions of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office before, during and after Trutenko’s testimony, a sufficient basis exists to investigate whether any persons, including but not limited to current or former members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, engaged in criminal conduct.
“The record in this case absolutely calls into question the reasons behind the [Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office] decisions and conduct regarding Trutenko. At best, the [Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office] acted in a misguided and inept manner as to Trutenko and the ethical crisis created by his misconduct and trial testimony,” Judge Maldonado wrote in his ruling. “However, at worst, the actions of the [Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office], as to Trutenko, could have been motivated by unethical and, perhaps, illegal reasons to cover up misconduct.”