Exoneree sues City of Chicago, claims police coerced confession to 1992 double murder

By Kenneth Lowe | Feb 4, 2014

An Evanston man exonerated of a 1992 double murder is suing the City of Chicago for a wrongful conviction that kept him in jail for 20 years.

Daniel Taylor filed suit Feb. 3 in Chicago's federal court against the city, unidentified city employees and several current and former police officers, including Anthony Villardita, Thomas Johnson, Brian Killacky, Terry O'Connor, Rick Abreu, Robert Delaney, Sean Glinski and Michael Berti.

Taylor, 38, was 17 years old when he was convicted of murdering Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook, both of whom died in their apartment at the hands of a gunman on Nov. 11, 1992. An upstairs neighbor heard the gunshots and called police at 8:43 p.m.

Although he was being processed and in police lock-up between 6:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. on that same night for an unrelated disorderly conduct charge, Taylor asserts police eventually coerced a confession out of him for the crime by chaining him to a wall, punching him and hitting him with a flashlight.

"Alone, frightened, and believing the defendant officers' statements that he would be released, plaintiff falsely confessed to murders that he did not commit and could not have committed," his suit states.

Taylor alleges police discovered the fact he was in their custody while the crime occurred, but buried any exculpatory evidence and coerced a 15-year-old into implicating Taylor and six other men in connection with the crime.

Police officers, he claims, went so far as to fabricate a report stating they had encountered Taylor outside their custody while he was in their custody by coercing another man into corroborating it.

"Despite this evidence of Plaintiff's innocence, the defendant officers proceeded to frame Plaintiff for the murders rather than search for the real killer," his suit alleges.

Taylor was convicted of first degree murder, armed robbery and home invasion and sentenced to life in prison and two concurrent 30-year prison terms without parole. He was released after his conviction was vacated in 2013, by which time he had already spent more than half his life behind bars.

In addition to accusing police officers of wrongfully implicating him, Taylor's suit takes the Chicago Police Department to task for similar cases.

He alleges the department regularly buried such exculpatory evidence in suspects' "street files," a practice he claims is still condoned at the department's highest levels.

The constitutional violations that occurred Taylor's case "are encouraged and facilitated as a result of the City's practices and de facto policies," the suit states, noting that such practices include not tracking or disciplining officers repeatedly accused of such misconduct and failing to investigate cases involving coerced and false confessions

By "facilitating a code of silence within the Department," Taylor asserts that "Chicago police officers (including the defendant officers here) have come to believe that they may violate the civil rights of members of the public and cause innocent persons to be charged with serious crimes without fear of adverse consequences."

Taylor's suit includes counts alleging violations of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, as well conspiracy to deprive him of his constitutional rights, failure to intervene, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

He is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages from the defendants.

The suit was submitted by Gayle Horn of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago, who represents Taylor along with her colleagues Jon Loevy and David B. Owens, as well as Locke E. Bowman, David M. Shapiro and Alexa Van Brunt of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law.

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