Lee A. Day

Lousy lawyering cost him 12 years

Lee A. Day was convicted at a 1992 bench trial of the murder of one Chicago man and attempted murder of another. The victims — Thomas Peters and James Coleman — were shooting craps outside a liquor store on the city's west side at about 1:30 a.m. on September 1, 1990, when they were shot. They were taken to a hospital, where Peters died and Coleman was treated and released for a gunshot wound in the back.

Day, 38, and a codefendant, George Garrett, 25, were arrested eight days later after Darrell Gurley, a nephew of Peters and witness to the crime, told police they were the shooters. Day and Garrett were tried together before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas F. Dwyer. Garrett was tried by a jury, but Day chose a bench trial. Both were found guilty and sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 60 years for murder and 25 years for attempted murder. Both convictions were affirmed initially, but in 2001 the Illinois Appellate Court granted Day a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel.

Day's lawyer, Gay-Lloyd Lott, had failed to present "numerous" witnesses — both eyewitnesses and alibi witnesses — who could have exonerated Day. Moreover, Lott, who after the trial became a Cook County Circuit Court judge, had failed to effectively cross examine the surviving victim, Coleman, who had told prosecutors before the trial that Day was not involved. On May 8, 2002, the prosecution dropped all charges against Day. In September 2010, Judge Paul Biebel, Jr., presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court, granted Day a certificate of innocence, qualifying him for compensation through the Illinois Court of Claims.

— Rob Warden