Nov 27, 2017
In the last few weeks, a string of men have been exonerated after the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped charges against them.
Arthur Brown was released after 29 years in prison. Jose Maysonet had been locked up for 27 years. Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton were released after 23 years. Fifteen more men were exonerated from drug convictions. All of these cases shine a light on what Chicago police and prosecutors have done for decades.
The fifteen men whose drug convictions were overturned had all been set up by a corrupt cop, Sergeant Ronald Watts. Watts ran a protection racket on the streets of Chicago for a decade. One of the exonerated men, Leonard Gipson, had three drug convictions brought by Watts. “Watts always told me, ‘if you’re not going to pay me, I’m going to get you,’” Gipson said. “And every time I ran into him, he’d put drugs on me. Every time.”
Maybe Watts was a particularly crooked cop, but he was not the only one to play fast and loose with evidence.
Two of the other men just released supposedly confessed – but only after they were beaten by the cops. And the prosecutors and judges kept them in prison for decades anyway. In one case, the prosecutors even lied openly in court to keep the man in prison. The other two were put away on very scant evidence. As soon as DNA testing was done, it came out that someone else did it.
By dropping the charges against these four men, the state’s attorney admits that they were wrongly convicted. But how many more are rotting in prison on trumped-up evidence? Joshua Tepfor, the lead attorney for the 15 exonerated men, said up to 500 more convictions should be looked at because they’re tied to corrupt-cop Watts and his crew. That’s just one crew. The other cases involved dozens more cops. How about the thousands locked up by them? How about the tens of thousands prosecuted by the state’s attorneys who were willing to railroad these men to prison?
These cases reveal a “criminal justice” system that has more than just a few “bad apples.” It is rotten to its core.