After being wrongfully convicted of murder and spending more than 16 years in prison, two men are filing federal lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, accusing them of fabricating evidence and coercing false confessions in the case.
“Sometimes I feel like an 18-year-old kid that got locked up, that was always told to tell the truth, and the truth didn’t set me free,” John Fulton said Wednesday.
Fulton and Anthony Mitchell, who were convicted in a 2003 murder, held a press conference Wednesday about the lawsuit. At the time of the conviction, Fulton was just 18 and Mitchell was 17.
“They had everything in the world to look forward to, but instead their lives were shattered,” attorney Sam Heppell said.
Fulton’s lawsuit claims detectives used “illegal tactics” to secure a false confession, while Mitchell’s lawsuit says investigators used “threats and physical violence” to obtain a false confession.
Video evidence showing that neither man was at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder ultimately cleared both men.
“There are still people behind bars to this day wrongfully convicted because of the misconduct of some of the defendants that were named in the lawsuit, so I think shining a light on that is helpful to them,” Heppell said.
Attorney Andrea Lyon says that prosecutors went too far in their zeal to close the case and to gain convictions, and called their actions disturbing.
“If they were part of the investigation, which these assistant state’s attorneys were, and they were part of railroading these two young men for something they didn’t do, which they were, then they are also liable,” she said.
Since the litigation is still pending, both the State’s Attorney’s Office and the city’s law department declined comment.
No matter the outcome of the lawsuit, both men hope that their story can save others from a similar fate.
“I am not mad at anybody involved,” Mitchell said. “I just want justice, so that it won’t happen to anybody else.”