Paul Terry

Wrongly convicted of rape and murder, Paul Terry lost more than a quarter of a century of his life

Paul Terry and co-defendant Michael Evans were wrongfully convicted of the 1976 murder of 9-year-old Lisa Cabassa on the south side of Chicago. They spent 27 years behind bars before they were exonerated by DNA in 2003.

For details see Michael Evans

Case Data

Defendant: Paul Terry
Jurisdiction: Cook County, Illinois
Date of birth: November 22, 1958
Date of crime: January 15, 1976
Age at time of crime: 17
Date of arrest: November 5, 1976
Date of release: May 23, 2003 (charges dismissed August 22, 2003).
Time lapse (crime to release): 9,965 days
Gender: Male
Race: African American
Trial counsel:
Type of trial: Jury
Convicted of: Murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape, deviate sexual assault, indecent liberties with a child
Sentence: 200 to 400 years for murder, 75 to 150 years for aggravated kidnapping, 75 to 150 years for rape, 50 to 100 years for deviate sexual assault, sentences to run concurrently.
Prior conviction record: None
Trial judge: Frank W. Barbaro
Prosecutor(s): Thomas M. Breen
No. of victims: 1
Age(s) of murder victim(s): 9
Gender of victim(s): Female
Race of victim(s): Hispanic
Relationship of victim to defendant: None
Known factors leading to wrongful conviction: Uncorroborated testimony of witness who claimed to have seen Terry and Michael Evans struggling with the victim on the street
Was conviction affirmed on direct appeal? Yes. People v. Evans, 80 Ill. App. 3d 444 (1979)
Major issues on direct appeal: Failure to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutorial misconduct, judicial error in denial of motion for mistrial after the jury twice reported it was deadlocked
Was error found but held to be harmless? Yes, prosecutorial misconduct (improper argument)
Further appeals: None
Evidence suggesting innocence: DNA, discrepancy regarding time of crime and time witness claimed to have seen struggle
Final appellate counsel(s): Jeffrey Urdangen, cooperating counsel, Center on Wrongful Convictions
Compensation for wrongful imprisonment: Pending