Cook County State’s Attorney seeks to dismiss appeal from wrongfully-convicted man
Roosevelt Myles has been locked up for 27 years for a crime he did not commit. For 18 years, Myles has waited for an evidentiary hearing that the state granted him. He never got it and a Cook County judge on Monday, December 17 will decide whether he will finally get it. But this should never be an issue. An Illinois Appellate Court granted him a hearing in 2000. Since his conviction in 1996, Myles has been a victim of Cook County’s notorious criminal justice system, where he has had at least five public defenders who have racked up 70 delays on his appeals and did nothing on his case. The judge in the case, Dennis Porter, did nothing to stop this gross miscarriage of justice as Myles’ constitutional rights were violated time and time again. Porter is the same judge who outraged even legal analyst in 2015 when he cited a legal technicality that cleared Officer Dante Servin in killing Rekya Boyd in 2012.
Now Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has joined in on this shameful game that has left a wrongfully-convicted man behind bars for half of his life. Shame on Foxx, an elected official who paraded before voters as a reformer to get elected in 2016. Her disgraced predecessor, Anita Alvarez was ousted that year after she waited 13 months to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke of first degree murder for shooting teenage Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Foxx has in her hands a case that involves another disgraced police officer whom the city’s Inspector General recommended termination for helping to cover up the shooting of McDonald. But Detective Anthony Wojick, who retired several years ago, not only had 41 complaints on his record, but was known for forcing people to confess to committing or witness crimes to put people behind bars. Myles is one of his victims.
On November 16, 1992, a shooting occurred on Chicago’s West Side. Someone tried to rob Octavius Morris, 15 and Shaharain “Tony” Brandon, 16, who was shot and later died at a hospital. Eager to nab a suspect, Det. Wojick, arrested Myles weeks later, pinning the crime on him. Morris has alibis who said he was blocks away at the time of shooting. Several witnesses at first said Myles did not commit the shooting. In two sworn affidavits, Morris, said she was forced to change her confession after Wojick and several detectives came to her mother’s house at least six times pressuring her to say Myles was her friend’s killer. One of those affidavits came two years prior to Myles trial in 1996. Morris was the state’s main eyewitness who testified against Myles and stuck to her forced confession. Court documents show that Myles’ public defenders did little to nothing in presenting available evidence that would have proven his innocence. Instead, Myles was convicted and sentenced to a total of 60 years in prison. Since then, Myles has been fighting for the truth to come out. When the Crusader learned about his case in 2017, this newspaper believed him and published a series of articles based on court documents and the Cook County justice system’s outrageous history of locking up innocent Black men who were wrongfully convicted of a crime.
In 2000, a panel of three judges on the Illinois Appellate Court of the First Judicial District granted Myles an evidentiary hearing, saying his appeal has met the state’s requirements. But Myles never got that hearing as he languished in jail while nothing was done on his post-conviction appeal until his case fell into the hands of the Bonjean Law Group in New York. This law group has helped many wrongfully-convicted Black and Hispanic men framed by Chicago officers win their freedom. The attorneys from the law firm are fighting for a hearing that he has waited for 18 years, but Foxx is trying to stop that, arguing that despite two sworn affidavits and the appellate court’s ruling, Myles’ appeal has no merit and should be dismissed. It’s the same argument that the state struck down in 2000. Myles has suffered enough. His mother, father, brother, uncles and aunts have all died while he fought for freedom from jail. Myles is now 54 and has been a model inmate at the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton, IL. He has earned several certifications and worked as professional chef while incarcerated. But he has suffered and spent many, many years of pain. He doesn’t know how to text or do the things we all take for granted. Shame on Foxx for adding to his grief and going against an appellate court’s ruling.
The state never had a case against Myles. There was no physical evidence or DNA evidence that linked Myles to the crime. The state’s case was largely based on the sole testimony of a frightened teenager, who signed a second sworn, more detailed, affidavit last summer, saying she lied while under pressure from Wojick. If Myles does get a hearing, the state won’t have a case to argue because there is none. Morris has come clean and the two other witnesses who were forced to change their confession have died. Myles would have Morris, several alibis and Wojick’s crooked past as evidence to finally prove his case.
As Cook County’s most powerful prosecutor Foxx has vacated the conviction of numerous, wrongfully convicted men who were victims of Commander Jon Burge and Ronald Watts, another disgraced man of the badge. But Myles is not a statistic and this story is not about numbers or maintaining a good image when there is pressure from the media. This story is about the life of a human being who has suffered for far too long and whose constitutional rights have been repeatedly violated by a criminal justice system that used the bogus testimony of a scared teenager to prove its case. Foxx has the opportunity to do what’s right and end Myles’ decades of incarceration and suffering, but instead she has proven that she is part of the system. Shame on her.