Eric Blackmon

Eric Blackmon with CWC attorneys Karen Daniel and Greg Swygert after his release

Eric Blackmon with CWC attorneys Karen Daniel and Greg Swygert after his release

Wrongfully convicted of a fatal shooting that happened while he was hosting a Fourth of July party with numerous witnesses.


Eric Blackmon was convicted of a murder that occurred on a Chicago sidewalk on the afternoon of July 4, 2002. At that time, however, he was actually hosting a Fourth of July party a mile away, and numerous people could have attested to that fact. Unfortunately, his defense counsel failed to call most of those witnesses at trial. After his arrest on September 5, 2002, Blackmon was convicted of first-degree murder by Cook County Circuit Court Judge William G. Lacy, based on identifications by two women who drove by the shooting with children in their cars, who saw the shooter for only a few seconds, and who did not view a photo array or lineup until several weeks later. Blackmon did not know the victim or his associates, the State advanced no motive theory, no physical evidence connected Blackmon to the crime, and he always maintained his innocence. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison on October 25, 2004.

After exhausting his state court remedies, Blackmon filed a pro se federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Although the petition was initially dismissed, Blackmon persuaded the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to hear his case. The Court appointed the law firm of Perkins Coie to represent Blackmon on appeal, and on May 24, 2016, the Court held that that Blackmon’s allegations had merit and an evidentiary hearing was necessary to evaluate the alibi witness testimony and the performance of Blackmon’s trial attorney.

Perkins Coie asked the Center on Wrongful Convictions to partner with them for the evidentiary hearing. CWC clinical faculty members Karen L. Daniel and Gregory Swygert, along with CWC clinic students Valerie Brummel (’17) and Margaret Truesdale (’17), made up the CWC team. The hearing took place before United States District Court Judge Ronald A. Guzman in May 2017. On February 7, 2018, Judge Guzman issued an opinion finding Blackmon credible (and his trial attorney not credible), finding the eleven alibi witnesses who testified consistent and persuasive, and granting the habeas petition. The Perkins Coie attorneys who worked on the federal habeas case were John S. Skilton, David J. Harth, David R. Pekarek Krohn ('10), and Anne Readel.

During the pendency of the federal habeas proceedings, one of the two women who had identified Blackmon at trial recanted her testimony and stated under oath that police officers had pressured her into making a false identification.

Blackmon’s case returned to state court and his conviction was vacated on March 26, 2018, but prosecutors initially expressed their intention to retry the case. Blackmon posted bond on May 3, 2018—and left incarceration for the first time in almost 16 years. The law firm of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila (attorneys Ronald S. Safer and Tal C. Chaiken and paralegal Art Mitzel) agreed to lead the retrial team if necessary. CWC clinic students Riley Clafton ('20) and Shafaq Hasan ('19) assisted in the retrial preparations. The matter languished on the trial call for many months until Blackmon’s attorneys brought the case to the attention of top assistants to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Shortly thereafter, on January 16, 2019, Foxx’s office dropped all charges.

Media: NBC Chicago storyChicago Tribune storyChicago Sun-Times story