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Aldermen To Vote On $14 Million Settlement In Wrongful Conviction Case In 1989 Murder Of Retired CPD Sergeant's Wife

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago taxpayers are poised to pay out $14 million to settle lawsuits filed by two men wrongfully convicted of the 1989 murder of a retired Chicago police sergeant's wife, as part of the latest round of settlements accusing CPD officers of misconduct.

The City Council Finance Committee on Monday is set to vote on a handful of settlements, including the massive payouts to Kevin Bailey and Corey Batchelor, who spent nearly 45 combined years in prison before they were cleared of the stabbing death of Lula Mae Woods, whose body was found in the garage of her home in June 1989.

Batchelor was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and was released on parole in 2004 after 15 years behind bars. Bailey was sentenced to 80 years in prison, and was released in January 2018, after spending 29 years in prison, when a Cook County judge dismissed their convictions.

Cook County prosecutors spent seven months reviewing their case, before concluding in January 2018 that there was insufficient evidence to uphold their convictions.

They have maintained their innocence ever since their arrests, and have said they were tortured into confessing by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge's infamous "midnight crew" at Area 2 headquarters. Their attorneys said they had evidence the same officers also were accused of choking and beating suspects in other cases to obtain false confessions.

Innocence Project attorney Jarrett Adams said in 2017 that newly acquired DNA evidence proved Bailey and Batchelor are innocent. He said hair from a Domino's Pizza hat found under Woods' body does not match either man's DNA, and neither does DNA evidence on a bloody towel found at the scene.

"So now we have clear and convincing evidence of their innocence," Adams said. "It was not Kevin Bailey and it was not Corey Batchelor."

Bailey and Batchelor hugged each other in court after the judge dismissed their convictions, and set Bailey free.

Police said an informant who claimed Batchelor admitted to the killing led to the arrests of the two suspects. They were convicted without physical evidence linking them to the crime, based largely on confessions.

Another proposed settlement up for a vote on Monday is a $125,000 payment to Lenora Bonds, the mother of Terrance Harris, her mentally ill son who was shot and killed by police in 2013.

Bonds had called police in October 2013 for help with her son, who was diagnosed with bipolar disease.

When officers arrived, Harris was armed with two butcher knives, and stabbed his mother and an officer before retreating to the basement and barricading himself in the furnace room.

After officers followed him down there, he lunged at them, and officers shot him a total of 29 times.

Bonds claimed the shooting was not justified, and her attorneys said the officers' use of force was excessive.

"The fact they fired that many shots and hit this man, you have to wonder how the city's gonna say it's not excessive," attorney Daniel Nixa said when Bonds filed her lawsuit in 2016.

The three officers who fired their weapons were later cleared by the Independent Police Review Authority, a city agency tasked with investigating police shootings, which has since been replaced by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

The Finance Committee also is scheduled to take up a $425,000 proposed settlement for Dejuan Harris, who was shot by police in Englewood in 2016. Police said officers had pulled over a vehicle with stolen license plates, when Dejuan Harris and two other men ran off, and Dejuan Harris pointed a gun at the officers.

Dejuan Harris claimed he had thrown away his gun as he was fleeing police, and was still running away when he was shot.

The settlement for Dejuan Harris was brought up once before at a Finance Committee meeting in September, but it was held in committee after several aldermen raised doubts about Dejuan Harris' account, and balked at the settlement, saying they didn't believe the city would lose the case at trial.

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