Posts Tagged ‘police who don’t protect and serve’

Ben Baker, 43, of Chicago was convicted of drug possession in 2005 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, but last year, the Exoneration Project discovered evidence that the investigators framed Baker.  He was eventually released from the Robinson Correctional Center this week and sent home.  Baker’s legal team knew for more than a day that he was no longer convicted of what a corrupt officer framed him for, but Baker had no idea.  He said, “I was coming from the gym, from a fitness class they provide there. I was standing, waiting.  The officer told me to pack my stuff. I was going home. I told him, ‘Stop playing.’ ”

“This is what we do this work for.  This conviction should have never happened, but we are delighted that once the case got on their radar, the state’s attorney’s office acted quickly and decisively,” said Joshua Tepfer, a lawyer with the Exoneration Project.

Sergeant Ronald Watts and a number of officers on his squad testified that Baker was selling drugs out of one of the city’s public housing buildings, the Ida B. Wells building.  Baker has always maintained his innocence and said that the authorities were framing him.

At trial, he testified that Sgt. Watts had previously tried to frame him for drug-related cases when he refused to give Watts $1,000 for “protection”.   Baker refused to pay the money and got out of those false charges later.  He subsequently complained to another officer Alvin Jones, but he didn’t know that Jones was part of the scheme.  Jones responded it was all “part of the game…you win some, you lose some.  Next time we get you, it will stick.”

Watts and the other officers testified that Baker was lying and the jury convicted him.

Officer Douglas Nichols, who worked under Watts’ command, testified that he saw Baker with drug bags packaged for distribution and tried to capture him, but he fled.  Officer Robert Gonzalez, also a member of Watts’ team, testified that he arrested Baker in the lobby after Baker got away from Nichols and that he found heroin, crack cocaine, and $800 in his pocket.

Baker told the court that Watts and his officers were the ones with a criminal empire in the housing complex.  They often stole narcotics proceeds and shook down dealers for “protection money”, and even pinned cases on innocent residents if they refused to play ball with them.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge fully believed the officers stating that he thought Baker’s accusations were unfounded.  He sentenced Baker to 18 years, but that sentence was later reduced to 14 years.  The accusations “[hold] no water at all,” Judge Toomin said.

It turns out that the criminals were the ones wearing the badges in this case. (more…)

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Shawn Whirl who served 25 years in prison for a murder he said he was forced to confess to, walked out of prison October 14th.  Whirl, now 45, was convicted of shooting and killing taxi driver Billy Williams in 1990.  Whirl said former Chicago Police Detective James Pienta tortured him until he confessed.  Whirl was stepped on, slapped, and Pienta yelled racial slurs at him.  Pienta allegedly forced Whirl to confess when Whirl professed his innocence.  Pienta also stabbed Whirl in the legs with his keys.  Whirl’s girlfriend was also at the police station and reported hearing him screaming out.  Police questioned Whirl because his fingerprints were found in the taxi.  Whirl told police that two days before he had hopped in the taxi to escape gang members who were trying to rob him.  Whirl’s lawyers advised him to plead guilty because he confessed and the state planned to pursue the death penalty.  Whirl was sentenced to 60 years.

Using Whirl’s false confession, prosecutors formulated the motive for the crime.  Whirl was having financial issues and struggling to pay his rent so he robbed Williams.

An appeals court overturned Whirl’s conviction in August.  Whirl was the first defendant given a new trial as the result of the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission investigations.  The commission was founded in 2009 to correct wrongful convictions of people who were tortured by the police especially under Police Commander Jon Burge.  The cases span 3 decades, from the 1970s through the 1990s.  Burge and his detectives are suspected of torturing 200 men.

Tara Thompson, Whirl’s lawyer and a member of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project said, “I think that Shawn’s case is proof that it’s not too late for those of us that are making sure people who were tortured into giving confessions can still have their day in court…I hope Shawn’s case brings hope to other people…”

The Exoneration Project is a non-profit organization at the University of Chicago, where law students work to help prisoners who profess their innocence.  Whirl could pursue a certificate of innocence, which will expunge and seal his records, or he could file a wrongful conviction and torture lawsuit, but any damages would be capped at $200,000.

Whirl has served half of his life in prison and said he knows that it will be hard to adjust, “God is not through with me yet and he hasn’t brought me this far for no reason…I don’t hold any bitterness, or anger, or animosity because I don’t have room for it…I think I’ll be OK.”

Sources:  AFRO

Richard Combs was the police chief, and only police officer, of small town Eutawville, South Carolina in 2011 when he killed Bernard Bailey after an alleged altercation outside of Town Hall.

Combs was attempting to arrest Bailey for obstruction of justice after the man challenged a ticket that his daughter had been given for a broken tail light.  Officer Combs followed Bailey to his truck and tried to prevent him from leaving.  Combs claims that he got his arm stuck in the steering wheel as Bailey drove away.  Fearing for his life, he shot Bailey twice in the chest.  In 2013, the DOJ (Dept. of Justice) decided that there were no civil rights violations in the case.  The case didn’t end there.

State investigators concluded that Combs was the aggressor and that he shouldn’t have escalated the incident.  Combs was charged with official misconduct.  State prosecutors pushed for a stand your ground claim to be dismissed, which it was last week.  A grand jury indicted Richard Combs the same day a New York grand jury refused to indict a white officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.

Combs faces up to 10 years in prison for official misconduct and 30 years to life for the murder charge, if convicted.  The trial is scheduled to begin in January.

Combs is the third officer in South Carolina to be charged this year for an on-duty shooting.

A white police officer in North Augusta was charged with misconduct in office in August in the shooting death of a 68-year-old unarmed black man at his home after a chase.

A state trooper was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in September when he shot an unarmed black man he had pulled over as the man reached in his car to get his wallet. That shooting was captured on the trooper’s dashboard camera and shown around the world. Both officers are awaiting trials.