A Chicago man who has been in prison for 23 years for murder and another who has been locked up for 11 years after being convicted of sexual assault were released from prison Tuesday, hours after a prosecutor dropped the charges against them because she was convinced they were innocent.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said during a news conference that new investigations by her office revealed there was no physical evidence linking Latherial Boyd to the 1990 homicide and Carl Chatman to the 2002 sexual assault and that there is powerful evidence that suggests their innocence.
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"It is my position that this man did not commit this crime," said Alvarez of Boyd, just after making a similar statement about Chatman.
Alvarez said her office's Conviction Integrity Unit reopened the investigation into Boyd, 47, after receiving a letter from Boyd from prison, where he has been serving an 82-year sentence. She said the case of the 58-year-old Chatman, serving a 30-year sentence, came to her office's attention during a review that she said the unit does in cases in which there is no physical evidence and only one witness.
During the course of those probes in the two unrelated cases, her office learned that there was evidence that would have helped Boyd at trial but was never presented by defense attorneys and evidence that would have helped Chatman but was not known until after his conviction.
Of Boyd, Alvarez said not one of nine eye witnesses to the homicide picked Boyd out of police lineups, but that the defense failed to call any of them to testify. Also, she said that a man who was shot in the back and paralyzed in the same shooting initially told police that he did not see the gunman and then "changed his story" at trial to identify Boyd.
The results of the new investigation about Chatman were even more dramatic, with Alvarez saying that there was compelling evidence that the woman who claimed Chatman sexually assaulted her in an office in a downtown Chicago courthouse simply made up her story. She said that during the recent probe, investigators learned that a sheriff's deputy was asleep in an adjacent room.
That deputy was never interviewed by police in the initial investigation, Alvarez said, but that the deputy did tell authorities later that he "heard no noise, whatsoever," despite the woman's contention that she `cried out for help and fought loudly" with Chatman.
"The version of the events put forward by the alleged victim in this case has no credibility," Alvarez said.
She also said there was no physical or DNA evidence taken from either his body or the woman's body linking the two and there was no evidence that the woman was even sexually assaulted as she contended.
Chatman confessed to the crime, but the fact that he was a mentally ill homeless man raised questions about his confession, she said. In fact, his mental condition and the fact that the woman was the only witness against helped prompt her office to open the investigation.
Alvarez said there were questions about the woman after her office learned that she had made similar accusations against another man, a janitor in a downtown office building, who she accused raped her. That man was charged, Alvarez said, but fled to Poland before he could stand trial.
Chatman's attorney said the woman was motivated by money to make up her accusations against Chatman. "She came to work before anyone arrived, claimed she as savagely beaten and raped and filed suit with building management, Cook County and four other entities," said Russell Ainsworth.
Ainsworth said that she received settlements in the 1979 case and again in the 2002 case, but that the terms of the settlements have remained confidential.
Alvarez said it is too late to charge the woman with perjury, explaining that the statute of limitations has run out. But she said her office is exploring if there are any legal actions it can take against her.
Alvarez formed the unit less than two years ago, and Boyd and Chatman are the fourth and fifth prison inmates who have had their charges dropped and have been freed since May 2012.