Daniel Taylor

After Being Framed for Murder and Spending 20 Years in Prison for Wrongful Conviction, Daniel Taylor Sues City of Chicago

Daniel Taylor, who spent more than 20 years in a state prison for a crime he didn't commit, has filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and eight men whose misconduct as police officers resulted in Taylor's conviction of first-degree murder, armed robbery and home invasion.

Daniel Taylor, who spent more than 20 years in a state prison for a crime he didn’t commit, has filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and eight men whose misconduct as police officers resulted in Taylor’s conviction of first-degree murder, armed robbery and home invasion.

When Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook were shot and killed in Mr. Lassiter's north side Chicago apartment on Nov. 16, 1992, Taylor was a 17-year-old in police custody in connection with an unrelated charge.

Taylor had an airtight alibi. On the day of the murders, Taylor was in police custody beginning at 6:45 p.m. and wasn’t bonded out until 10 p.m. – more than an hour after Mr. Lassiter and Ms. Haugabook were murdered.

In the days after the murders, police coerced false confessions from six young men, including a “confession” from one of them that Taylor participated in the murders. The officers brought Taylor in for questioning, beat him and continued to pressure him until he gave them a confession, according to the lawsuit.

On Taylor’s behalf, attorneys from the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the Chicago firm of Loevy & Loevy filed the civil rights lawsuit in federal court in Chicago on Feb. 3, 2014.

“Charging Daniel Taylor with this double murder was not an accident,” said Locke Bowman, Executive Director of the MacArthur Justice Center. “It was not a mistake. It was not a reasonable investigation gone wrong. It was a deliberate frame-up.

“Daniel Taylor was coerced – as a 17-year-old boy – into confessing to a crime that he could not have committed because he was in police custody at the time the crime occurred,” Bowman said. “He was framed by the creation of evidence that purported to establish he wasn’t in police custody.”

At trial, there was no physical evidence tying Taylor to the crime, and police withheld evidence that would have benefitted Taylor’s defense. Police did not have crime scene fingerprints or DNA evidence linking Taylor to the crime, but the prosecution won the verdict by using his coerced confession, other coerced and false testimony and fabrication of evidence by police. The police officers withheld facts from prosecutors, misrepresented evidence to prosecutors and failed to investigate evidence that would have led to the real killer, according to the lawsuit.

Taylor’s lawsuit notes that the conduct of the police in this case is consistent with a Chicago Police Department pattern of using physically and psychologically coercive interrogation tactics to elicit statements from suspects,” and the lawsuit argues that the “City’s failure to train, supervise, and discipline its officers effectively condones, ratifies, and sanctions the kind of misconduct” committed against Taylor.

“As a result of the City of Chicago’s established practice of not tracking and identifying police officers who are repeatedly accused of the same kinds of serious misconduct; failing to investigate cases in which the police are implicated in obtaining coerced and false confessions, as well as wrongful charges and convictions; failing to discipline officers accused of this unlawful conduct; and facilitating a code of silence within the Department, 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,” the lawsuit states.

Many years after his conviction, Taylor was able to prove his innocence, and his conviction finally was vacated in 2013. The state dismissed the charges against Taylor, and he was released after spending more than 20 years of his life in prison. On Jan. 23, 2014, he was granted a Certificate of Innocence by the Cook County Circuit Court.

“I don’t have the words to explain what it feels like to get out a grown man, once going in as a child,” Taylor recently told reporters.

At one point in prison, Taylor said he had tried to take his own life because living with the possibility he would spend the rest of his life in prison had become too much to bear.

“It’s unexplainable,” he said. “I have no words for that, period.”

Taylor v. City of Chicago (pdf)

Exonerated man files federal lawsuit against Chicago police, Chicago Tribune

The murder case against him tossed, man sues city, Chicago Police, Chicago Sun-Times

Daniel Taylor files wrongful conviction suit after 20-year prison term, WLS-TV, Chicago

3 get certificates of innocence after murder convictions dismissed, Chicago Tribune

All charges dropped against man convicted in double slaying, Chicago Tribune

Updated - 02/21/14