Corey Batchelor

In June 1989, two 19-year-olds—Corey Batchelor and Kevin Bailey—were arrested and charged with the murder of Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired Chicago police officer. Mrs. Woods had been stabbed after she pulled into the garage of her home on the South Side.  By her body lay a dirty red, white, and blue baseball-style cap adorned with the Domino’s Pizza logo.  The police quickly determined the hat did not belong to Mrs. Woods or anyone in her family, and set out to find the owner of the hat. 

Police rounded up a number of local African-American men and youth and brought them to the Area 2 detective division for questioning.  Batchelor and Bailey were picked up five days after Ms. Woods’ murder. Batchelor was interrogated for more than 24 hours; he later described being choked and kicked and having his head slammed against the wall by detectives before he broke down and confessed to being a lookout. Bailey’s interrogation was 12 hours long; he reported that he confessed only after a detective grabbed him by the neck and threatened him. The confessions were wildly inconsistent with each other and did not fit known details about the crime. Despite this and despite their claims of innocence, both boys were convicted.

Steve Drizin from the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth and Ali Flaum from the Bluhm Legal Clinic began representing Batchelor in the spring of 2007; they were joined by Josh Tepfer of the CWCY the following year. Post-conviction DNA testing of the Domino’s Pizza hat failed to produce quantifiable results, but subsequent testing of other items led to better results. Both Batchelor and Bailey were excluded as the source of an eyebrow hair recovered from the hat and a hair found in a bloody towel left at the crime scene, and there was a strong suggestion that those hairs belonged to the same male.  Additional forensic testing of other items likewise excluded Batchelor and Bailey. Even so, a post-conviction judge denied relief, holding that the new DNA and fingerprint results were either cumulative of previous results or not sufficiently material to change the outcome of trial.

In March 2014, Batchelor’s legal team filed a claim before the Illinois Torture and Relief Inquiry Commission, created in 2009 by the Illinois Legislature to investigate claims of torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his supervision. Bailey filed a similar claim. A special prosecutor tasked with handling Burge-related torture claims undertook an extensive reinvestigation of the case, and ultimately agreed to join a motion to vacate the convictions. On January 30, 2018, the convictions were dismissed. Batchelor had been released from prison in 2004 after serving his entire sentence. Bailey had served 28 years in prison and would have been required to serve another 11 years had he not been exonerated.

In addition to the attorneys mentioned above, countless Northwestern law students assisted in the representation of Batchelor, including Slone Isselhard, Kelly Canavan, Brooke Krekow, Samee Burrage, Mallorie Medellin, Wes Morissette, Lauren Cohen, Leesa Haspel, and Hannah Wendling. Josh Tepfer continued his work on the case after leaving the CWCY and taking a new job at the Exoneration Project. Bailey was represented by the Innocence Project with the People’s Law Office serving as local counsel.