Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Imagine: 27 years in prison for a rape you didn't commit

City to pay $2.7M to man who wrongly spent 27 years in prison for raping girl

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter/fspielman@suntimes.com

Chicago will pay $2.7 million to compensate a man who spent 27 years in prison for the rape of a 9-year-old girl, only to be cleared by DNA evidence, under a settlement advanced Monday in a case with ties to indicted Area 2 Commander Jon Burge.

Paul Terry and Michael Evans, both 17, were convicted in 1977 of the abduction, rape and murder of Lisa Cabassa.

In 2003, they were released from prison after DNA testing showed that someone else sexually assaulted the South Side girl. They were subsequently pardoned by now ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Evans rolled the dice and lost. A federal jury rejected his $60 million lawsuit. Terry, whose mental capacity deteriorated in prison, opted for a settlement that amounts to $100,000 for each of his 27 years behind bars.

On Monday, the City Council's Finance Committee signed off on the agreement, closing yet another chapter in Burge's coercive and tortuous reign.

"There was only one piece of evidence against Terry and that was an identification by a totally incredible white woman manipulated by Area 2 detectives. Jon Burge was a sergeant in another district at the time. But, they were the Area 2 detectives who worked under him -- both before and after," said Terry's attorney Flint Taylor.

"They manipulated the witness to get a false I.D. They also manipulated evidence to change the times the abduction occurred. The time the family said the girl disappeared did not fit with the witness. And all of the evidence that showed this manipulation was destroyed. It went into 'street files' nobody ever got."

Corporation Counsel Mara Georges acknowledged that the eyewitness who identified Evans as the man she saw struggling with Lisa on the night of the murder did not identify Terry until ten months later.

"Her mental capacity is declining a little bit as she advances in age, so we weren't certain what kind of witness she would make. It seems prudent to settle this case for the $2.7 million that was put on the table," Georges said.

As for the Burge connection, Law Department spokesperson Jennifer Hoyle said, "We don't consider this to be a Burge case. He wasn't working at Area 2 when it happened."

Burge was indicted last year on federal charges that he lied under oath about torture.

Link: http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/1479471,city-settle-suit-rape-conviction-031609.article