Monday, July 14, 2008

'They stole my son's life': Fourteen years in prison for a rape he didn't commit


Now free, man cleared in '94 rape talks of life in prison

By Angela Rozas Tribune reporter
10:56 PM CDT, May 28, 2008

When he was sent to prison 14 years ago for a rape he did not commit, Dean Cage was a young man with three children, a steady job, a fiance and no prior criminal record.

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after being released from prison after DNA tests cleared him in the 1994 rape of a 15-year-old girl, Cage, now 41, spoke quietly of life in prison."It was hard. It was rough," said Cage, his voice low. "I ain't never been locked up a day in my life 'til I come to Chicago. . . . It was something real hard to deal with. Ain't no other words can explain that."

His attorneys talked of the children Cage couldn't help to raise, his father's failing health and his mother's steadfast defense of her son.

"They stole my son's life," his mother, Jerley, 63, said through tears at a news conference. "They stole mine's too. I forgive the people who did it to my son. And I pray for 'em."

Cage was identified in a lineup by the rape victim after composite sketches circulated through the neighborhood led to a tip that pointed to Cage. The girl also identified Cage's voice.

His attorneys with the New York-based Innocence Project and Northwestern University School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions contend that the detective assigned to the case influenced the identification.

He wouldn't have been identified if police used blind lineups, in which the officer conducting the lineup doesn't know the identity of the suspect, a reform the state and city of Chicago should adopt, said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which took Cage's case in 2004.

Karen Daniel, staff attorney at the Center on Wrongful Convictions, urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich to pardon Cage quickly so he can obtain financial compensation to help start his life over.

Neufeld also urged Blagojevich's office to fund and appoint people to a state commission to study wrongful non-capital convictions such as Cage's. The commission was created by the state legislature last year, but nothing has been implemented, Neufeld contended. The governor's office did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

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