New trial sought in North Chicago murder case

 
 
Updated 11/3/2015 5:38 PM
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  • Marvin Williford

    Marvin Williford

An attorney for a Chicago man who claims he was wrongfully convicted of a savage North Chicago murder filed paperwork in court Tuesday to request a new trial.

David Owens, an attorney with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, said in the document that Marvin Williford deserves a new trial because his DNA was completely excluded from items used in the crime, Owens said.

"The broader theme of the document is that this is a case of mistaken identity, which is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in the United States," Owens said by phone after the hearing.

Williford, 43, was convicted by a jury in 2004 of breaking into Delwin Foxworth's residence, beating him with a 2x4 wooden board, tying him up with duct tape and setting him on fire in January 2000. Foxworth was able to extinguish the flames and walk to a neighbor's house where he called for help, police said.

Foxworth, who was 39 when he was attacked, told police three men held him at gunpoint and beat him in an effort to get money. When he failed to meet their demands, the robbers poured gasoline on him and set him on fire, Foxworth told police.

He survived for two years before dying at Loyola University Medical Center in August 2002 from injuries sustained in the attack.

Williford was arrested in February 2003 and convicted of Foxworth's murder a year later. Williford has maintained his innocence throughout his arrest and trial, Owens said.

The case was reexamined by Owens in 2014, and DNA testing was performed on the duct tape, the gas can and the 2X4 used to beat Foxworth. Owens said in the document that tests showed none of the items used in the attack carried any trace of Williford's DNA.

In addition, Owens said, DNA tests on the 2x4 matched a DNA sample taken from the 1992 murder of Holly Staker in Waukegan.

Staker, 11, was found stabbed, raped and strangled inside a Waukegan apartment where she was baby-sitting. Juan Rivera, formerly of Waukegan, spent 20 years in prison for Staker's murder after he was convicted by three juries. DNA evidence exonerated Rivera, and he was released from prison in January 2012.

No one else has been charged with Staker's murder since Rivera's release.

"Put differently, the testing results completely change the landscape of this case -- they substantially corroborate Williford's consistent claim of innocence and undermine the state's contention that he was involved in the crime," the document states.

Prosecutors are due in court in December.

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