Algie Crivens

Algie Crivens was convicted of a murder after authorities ignored evidence that another man had killed the victim

After two eyewitnesses identified him as the killer, Algie Crivens was arrested and charged with the 1989 murder of Cornelius Lyons in the parking lot of a grocery store on the far south side of Chicago.

Before Crivens's 1992 bench trial before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Loretta Hall Morgan, a man named Titonia Smith came forward to claim that, while in a jail lockup, he heard another man, Marcus Williams, confess to the crime. Hall rejected Smith's testimony as uncorroborated and unreliable and proceeded to find Crivens guilty based on the eyewitness identifications.

On direct appeal, Crivens argued that the exclusion of Smith's testimony had been judicial error, but the Illinois Appellate Court rejected that claim. Crivens next filed a post-conviction petition based on what he asserted was newly discovered evidence that an eyewitness, Demetrius Taylor, who had not testified at the trial, claimed to have seen Marcus Williams shoot Lyons. Judge Morgan, however, denied relief, holding that Taylor's testimony would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Grady held that both issues had been procedurally defaulted because they had not been raised in the state courts, but in 1999 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagreed regarding the Brady issue and unanimously granted the writ of habeas corpus.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office chose to retry Crivins in 2000, but Crivins's lawyers (J. Samuel Tenenbaum, Henry Pietrkowski, and Thomas Geraghty) moved for a directed verdict of not guilty, which Judge Mary Ellen Coghlan granted. Governor George H. Ryan then granted Crivins a pardon based on innocence, qualifying him for automatic compensation for his years of wrongful imprisonment.