A Chicago man who spent 21 years in prison for a double killing that he has long maintained he did not commit was released from prison Friday night after prosecutors decided to dismiss the charges against him.
Deon Patrick, who was convicted in 1995, long contended his confession to the slayings of Sharon Haugabook and Jeffrey Lassiter was coerced by police. Prosecutors announced Thursday that they were dismissing the murder charges against Patrick, 42, in the 1992 killings in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
"Based upon the collective results of our investigation and our continuing review of this case, it is our assessment that we cannot meet our legal burden and we do not believe that it would be in the interest of justice to proceed," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a statement.
Upon his release from the downstate Menard Correctional Center, Patrick was greeted by his 21-year-old son, Deon Jr., and a co-defendant, Daniel Taylor, who was convicted of the same crime and spent 20 years behind bars before charges against him were similarly dismissed six months ago.
"I'm feeling good right now," Patrick said. "I'm going to try to do my best to make up time with my son and grandson."
Patrick said he will also spend some time to decide what he will do with his life now that he's free. He said he definitely will be going back to school.
Patrick's attorneys argued that the Chicago Police Department's own records show Patrick was locked up on a disorderly conduct charge at the time the two were killed in their apartment. During the trial, prosecutors contended the police lockup records were not accurate.
Patrick's attorney, Nicole Auerbach, said his release from prison was 21 years too late.
"Justice is slow, but it's been served finally," she said.
In an unrelated case, a Cook County judge last month overturned the conviction of Stanley Wrice in a rape case and ordered him released from prison after 31 years. The judge said he believed the police officers lied about how they treated Wrice during the investigation. The next day, prosecutors announced that they would not try Wrice again.
Alvarez has talked about her office's review of other cases in recent months, and in September, Alvarez dropped charges against two men who had spent years in prison after being convicted in unrelated cases, saying a review by her office had revealed evidence exonerating the two men. One man, Latherial Boyd, was serving an 82-year prison sentence after his conviction in the 1990 shooting death of a Chicago man. The other, Carl Chatman, had been locked up for 11 years since he was charged in 2002 with sexual assaulting a woman inside a Chicago courthouse.