Dean Cage

Dean Cage at NU Law (Photo: Jennifer Linzer)

Dean Cage at NU Law (Photo: Jennifer Linzer)

Erroneous ID sent Dean Cage to prison for 14 years

Dean Cage, a 28-year-old father of three, was convicted at a Cook County bench trial in 1994 of a sexual assault he did not commit and exonerated in 2008 after DNA testing excluded him as the source of biological evidence recovered from the 15-year-old victim, whose erroneous identification testimony had been the sole eivdence against him.

The assault occurred on November 14, 1994, in an alley in the rear basement stairwell of a building in the 7000 block of South Wabash Avenue.

The victim, who was white, gave police a description of her African-American attacker from which a computer-generated composite sketch was made. Police claimed that after the sketch was publicized they received an anonymous tip indicating that it resembled a man who worked at a meat-packing house in the 6900 block of South State Street. Although Cage, who had no criminal record, did not closely resemble the man depicted in the sketch, he was arrested and then identified by the victim in a live lineup.

He was then put into another lineup and identified by another sexual assault victim as the man who attacked her. He was acquitted in that case after conventional blood testing eliminated him as the source of semen recovered from the 29-year-old victim. No semen was recovered in the November 14 case, however, and he was convicted at a bench trial by Judge Michael Buckley Bolan based solely on the victim's identification testimony.

Cage maintained his innocence from the beginning. In 2005, he contacted the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law in New York, which sought DNA testing of saliva recovered from the victim's body and clothing. That testing positively excluded Cage as the source of the material. He was exonerated and released from prison on May 28, 2008. — Rob Warden