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Chicago City Council OKs $50 million settlement with 4 men wrongfully convicted of 1995 murders

Chicago City Council OKs $50 million settlement with 4 men wrongfully convicted of 1995 murders
Chicago City Council OKs $50 million settlement with 4 men wrongfully convicted of 1995 murders 01:43

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago City Council unanimously approved a $50 million settlement with four men who were wrongfully convicted of a 1995 double murder and spent 20 years in prison before they were cleared.

Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, Troshawn McCoy, and Lashawn Ezell, the so-called "Marquette Park Four," were between 15 and 19 at the time when they confessed to taking part in the robbery and murders. But they said their confessions were coerced. Their attorneys said no physical or forensic evidence linked them to the crime.

They were all given sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison.

As a part of the settlement, the city would pay $21 million of the settlement and the city's insurance company would pay the remaining $29 million. The approval of the settlement resolved four separate federal civil lawsuits brought by the men against the city.

In a joint statement, the four men said: "We are grateful that the City of Chicago has chosen to resolve our case and allow us to move on with our lives. No amount of money can ever return the years we lost due to Chicago Police misconduct that caused our collective 73 years of wrongful imprisonment. The City of Chicago must take steps to protect our teenagers from police abuses like those we endured."

In 2017, Cook County prosecutors recommended vacating their convictions after determining they could not meet their burden of proof if their cases were retried.

"Charles, Larod, Lashawn, and Troshawn are among the scores of kids who the Chicago Police Department has targeted for false arrest and coercive interrogations over the years, leading to Chicago's reputation as the False Confession Capital of the country," said Alex Van Brunt, Johnson's attorney and the director of the Illinois office of the MacArthur Justice Center, in a statement after the approval of the settlement.

Ald. Bill Conway (34th), a Finance Committee member, said while it's difficult to put a dollar amount on their innocence, he's worried about the many other similar cases in Chicago.

"So I have significant concern on the amount here," Conway said. "I have no doubt as to the liability of the city, but I have significant concern at the standard we're setting at this level, at this amount."

Johnson and Styles were sentenced to life in prison for killing Ali and Ibrahim in a robbery at their car dealership at 75th and Western. They were accused of stealing two cars. Johnson, a Cola-Cola deliveryman, was arrested after he returned home from work and signed a confession saying he planned to steal cars for parts to sell on the black market. He claims Chicago Police detectives pressured him into confessing.

Tests showed a match between fingerprints found on a car at the used-car lot and fingerprints on the adhesive side of a price sticker torn off one of the two cars stolen from the lot. Those same fingerprints were also found on the stolen cars. The prints belonged not to any of the "Marquette Park Four" but to a felon who lived a block from where the stolen cars were recovered.

Ezell, Styles, Johnson, and McCoy sued the city a year after they were exonerated. All four have since received certificates of innocence.

No one else has been convicted of the murders.

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