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Judge lets most of lawsuit over man's wrongful double-murder conviction move forward

By Kenneth Lowe | Dec 31, 2014

A federal judge has dismissed a few counts and let several others stand in a lawsuit a man who spent 21 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit brought against the City of Chicago and a group of police officers and prosecutors.

Deon Patrick was one of several men arrested in connection with the Nov. 16, 1992 murders of Jeffery Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook and in 1993, was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, armed robbery and home invasion.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, but in January 2014, the Cook County State’s Attorney moved to vacate his conviction and the circuit court issued him a certificate of innocence.

He filed suit, accusing the city and a group of Chicago cops and assistant state's attorneys of conspiring to violate and violating his constitutional rights by coercing him into signing a false confession, fabricating evidence and withholding information, among other claims.

The suit names the following as defendants: the City of Chicago, Chicago police officers Anthony Villardita, Thomas Johnson, Rick Abreu, Terry O’Connor, Brian Killacky, Sean Glinski and Michael Berti; Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys Joseph Magats and Martin Fogarty; and other unidentified cops and prosecutors.

In an opinion handed down earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motions to dismiss Patrick's suit.

Guzman noted that Patrick was arrested along with six other men. He was 20 at the time, while one of the others was a 15-year-old boy with an IQ of 70 who the opinion states was questioned “for more than fifteen hours without his mother or a lawyer present" and was told "he could go home if he agreed to the false statement that defendants had given him, which implicated [Patrick] and the others.”

During the 28 hours he was interrogated, the opinion states that Patrick claims he was chained him to a wall and denied access to a lawyer he asked for by name.

“The officers did not give plaintiff anything to eat or drink, would not let him sleep, and told him he could go home if he confessed,” Guzman wrote.

After false confessions were extracted from Patrick and the other men, all of which  named another arrestee, Daniel Taylor, as the mastermind behind the killings, police allegedly buried evidence that showed Taylor could not possibly have committed the murders because he was in custody at the time, the ruling notes.

Guzman in his Dec. 17 opinion dismissed Patrick’s claims alleging violations of his Fifth Amendment rights and intentional infliction of emotional distress as being untimely, saying they were filed past the time period of the relevant statutes limitation.

He also tossed a count Patrick lodged that alleged the defendants withheld evidence from him, explaining that Patrick had access to information about who had issued false confessions naming him as a perpetrator and could have discovered his own evidence.

Guzman, however, let stand the other nine counts in Patrick's lawsuit. Among those counts, Patrick claims the use of fabricated evidence violated his due process rights and that the city failed to intervene in the allegedly unconstitutional conduct and conspiracy. 

Patrick also claims the city failed to properly train its officers and maliciously prosecuted him. He originally named Cook County in the suit as well, but voluntarily dismissed it from his suit.

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