CHICAGO -- A special prosecutor on Tuesday dropped murder charges against two men who claimed they were beaten by Chicago detectives in the lead up to their conviction in the 1989 murder of a retired police officer's wife.
Corey Batchelor and Kevin Bailey were teenagers and close friends when they were taken to a police station and questioned about the death of Lula Mae Woods. Both men said they were beaten by detectives trained by disgraced Police Cmdr. Jon Burge before confessing to the killing.
Batchelor and Bailey embraced as Cook County Circuit Judge Alfredo Maldonado announced their convictions were vacated and special prosecutors had dropped the case against them. Batchelor was paroled in 2004, but worked with lawyers from University of Chicago Law School's Exoneration Project to see Bailey freed as well.
Bailey, who served nearly 30 years of an 80-year sentence, was released Tuesday afternoon from Stateville Correctional Center.
"I told him 'aren't you glad I didn't give up?'" Batchelor said after the hearing.
Bailey and Batchelor were 19 years old and had no criminal histories when they were arrested in Woods' stabbing death. Prosecutors said Tuesday that the evidence against the men doesn't meet the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The confessions that resulted (from the abuse) were inconsistent with each other, they're inconsistent with the facts, and now when everybody can take a look at it with the knowledge of what has happened, we realize that these two men did not commit the crime, and we're very happy that the state has acknowledged that," said Bryce Benjet, one of Bailey's attorneys.
Special Prosecutor Robert Milan began a review of the case in June. He said the review of thousands of pages of court records, police reports, and dozens of interviews, did not yield evidence that could prove the two men's guilt.
Despite that, Milan said Bailey and Batchelor have agreed not to seek a certificate of innocence, which would potentially entitle the two men to a payout from the state. The men also can not apply for funds as Burge torture victims, because Burge was no longer working at the police station at the time of their interrogation.
Burge was fired in 1993 for torturing the suspect in the killing of two cops. He was convicted in federal court in 2010 of perjury and obstruction of justice after jurors found he lied when he denied witnessing torture or abusing suspects in connection with a civil lawsuit. Burge spent 4½ years in prison and on home confinement.