Compensating the Wrongfully Convicted

Lake County Law Enforcement Coerced Witnesses and Fabricated Story to Frame Jason Strong for Murder, Federal Lawsuit Charges

After serving more than 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Jason Strong filed suit against the Lake County law enforcement officers he alleges conspired to send him to prison for the 1999 murder of a woman he had never even met.

One year ago, Strong was freed from state prison when prosecutors dropped all charges against him, and he became the latest known victim of a string of false convictions in cases investigated by City of Waukegan police and the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Last month, the Circuit Court of Lake County granted a Certificate of Innocence, finding him innocent of the murder of Mary Kate Sunderlin.

Strong, who is represented by attorneys from the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and seeks to recover damages from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force; the governments of Lake County, the City of Waukegan, and eight nearby municipalities; 14 current and former police officers employed by those governments; and Gary Del Re, former sheriff of Lake County.

News release HERE

Strong v. Tessman HERE

Updated 5/3/16

Peoria Police Sued for Conspiracy and Malicious Prosecutionof Innocent Man Imprisoned for 19 Years

PEORIA – Christopher Coleman, who spent 19 years in prison for crimes he did not commit, filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of Peoria and four police officers alleged to have conspired to convict him in total disregard to the truth and his clear innocence.

A year ago, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed Coleman’s 1994 armed robbery and sexual assault conviction and the Peoria County state’s attorney dismissed all charges.  Earlier this month, a Peoria County court declared him innocent.

Police investigating a home invasion by six men wearing face coverings fabricated evidence, including a false claim from a 12-year-old who had no knowledge of the crime but – after repeated threats he would never see his family again – confessed to participating and implicated Coleman and other suspects manufactured by the police without any probable cause, according to the lawsuit.

Police also used “unduly suggestive” procedures that led to a victim selecting Coleman from a police line-up and withheld exculpatory evidence from Coleman.

In addition to the Peoria Police Department, four current or former police officers – Patrick Rabe, Terry Pyatt, Timothy Anderson and Michael Ford – are named as defendants.

“In serving almost two full decades behind bars, (Coleman) was unjustly deprived of much of his adult life to date,” according to the lawsuit.  “He was stripped of the various pleasures of basic human experience, which all free people enjoy as a matter of right.  He missed out on the ability to share holidays, births, funerals, and other life events with loved ones, and the fundamental freedom to live one’s life as an autonomous human being. 

“As a result of his wrongful conviction and incarceration, (Coleman) must now attempt to rebuild his life outside of prison, all without the benefit of the life experiences that ordinarily equip adults for that task,” the lawsuit states.

Coleman’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois by attorneys from the Chicago-based civil rights law firm of Loevy & Loevy and by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the Bluhm Legal Clinic, both at Northwestern University School of Law.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages for the malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress on Coleman.

Christopher Coleman v. City of Peoria (pdf)

Updated - 3/11/15

Those who have served time in prison for crimes they did not commit deserve to be compensated for their ordeal. By using both civil rights litigation and state laws that provide for compensation awards in such cases, the Justice Center works to win compensation for innocents who have served time in prison. The Justice Center has won multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in civil rights cases filed on behalf of men who were imprisoned in Illinois and elsewhere for crimes they did not commit.

Justice Center Wins $3.6 Million for Wrongfully Convicted Man, Chicago Sun-Times
City Council Panel Endorses $3.6 Million Settlement in Alleged Police Misconduct, Chicago Tribune
Major Victory for MacArthur Justice Center - $25 Million Won for Man Who Spent 16 Years in Prison for a Crime He Didn't Commit, Northwestern Law
Wrongfully Convicted Man Awarded $25 Million, NBC5 Chicago