Corethian Bell v. Chicago Police Department
Million Dollar Settlement for Mentally Disabled Man in Police Misconduct Case, Victim Coerced into Falsely Confessing to Mother's Murder
Attorneys have reached a one million dollar settlement with the Chicago Police for Corethian Bell, a mentally disabled man who was coerced into confessing to the murder of his mother and spent 17 months in Cook County Jail for a crime he did not commit.
"This settlement helps to return some dignity to a man who was cruelly accused of killing his mother despite any evidence linking him to the heinous crime," said Craig Futterman, attorney for Bell and clinical professor of law with the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.
"Corethian's case has been a shocking example of police abuse and misconduct, and it's only right and fair that he be compensated for the egregious mishandling of the interrogation and subsequent investigation. We're extremely happy to find some justice for Corethian today."
Bell, a man with mental illness, found his murdered mother in her apartment on July 16, 2000, and immediately called the police to report the crime. He was wrongly charged in her murder after he gave a video taped confession that Chicago police elicited after more than 50 hours of interrogation during which Bell repeatedly said he did not commit the crime. The police had no evidence that Bell committed the murder.
Bell then spent 17 months in Cook County Jail while the case was pending. The Cook County State 's attorney eventually dropped the charges against Bell after DNA evidence proved his innocence.
The MacArthur Justice Center and the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic filed a lawsuit on Bell's behalf in 2002 seeking compensation. According to the suit, the interrogation included psychological manipulation, violation of established interrogation procedures, abusive and hostile questioning, and ultimately, a physical assault on Bell.
"Unfortunately, this is not the first time the police have gone completely outside of what is legal, ethical and appropriate when interrogating suspects," said Futterman. "This case highlights the need for reforms within the Chicago Police Department, and specifically, the need to video tape the entire interrogation process - not just the confession that results."
Although there was no physical evidence linking Bell to the crime, and despite the fact that Bell didn't know any of the details of the murder (Bell reported to 911 operators that his mother had been shot, although in fact she had been stabbed), Bell was interrogated for more than 50 hours. According to the suit, Bell was isolated during the interrogation, subjected to a polygraph (which police later told him he had "failed"), and told details of the murder that Bell could use to confess to the crime. In direct violation of interrogation procedures, the officers provided Bell with a potential motive and, ultimately, used physical force against him.
After Bell continued to deny killing his mother, some of the police officers became angry and verbally abusive, and one of the officers eventually struck Bell in the head. When Bell finally agreed to confess, he needed to be led through the confession by prosecutors. When he was not given direction during the confession, he gave information that was inconsistent with the physical evidence at the crime scene.
While the interrogation process was underway, evidence was collected at the crime scene - including blood and semen samples that, when later tested, shared a DNA match with DeShawn Boyd, who was later charged with a similar crime only a few blocks away - which would have conclusively proven Bell's innocence. However, that evidence was not tested for nearly a year after the crime was committed.
The suit was filed in 2002 in the Circuit Court of Cook County against five officers involved in the interrogation and the City of Chicago. The settlement was reached yesterday and is pending approval of the Chicago City Council.
Updated - 10/11/2006
MJC Files Suit on Behalf of Man Coerced in False Confession Despite DNA Evidence Proving His Innocence
On July 15, 2002, the MacArthur Justice Center filed suit against the Chicago Police on behalf of Corethian Bell, who was coerced into confessing to a murder he did not commit. Bell was wrongly charged in July 2000 with the murder of his mother after he gave a video taped confession. Chicago police detectives subjected Bell to more than 50 hours of incommunicado interrogation in a locked, windowless interrogation room. They employed psychological manipulation, numerous improper interrogation procedures, abusive and hostile questioning and, ultimately physical coercion in order to force Bell to admit to a murder he didn't commit. Bell was exonerated after almost a year and a half in custody when DNA evidence proved that another man had committed the crime. His case is a dramatic example of police misconduct is eliciting a false confession.
Updated - 07/15/2002