Exonerated brothers’ bid for certificates of innocence delayed again

Judge delays decision on certificates of innocence for 2 exonerated brothers

Judge delays decision on certificates of innocence for 2 exonerated brothers


CHICAGO (CBS) — The waiting game continues for two brothers who were exonerated for a murder they did not commit after spending nearly 30 years in prison, as they pursue official certificates of innocence.

Reginald Henderson and Sean Tyler have said they were teenagers when they were tortured into confessing to the 1994 murder of Rodney Collins by Chicago police officers overseen by disgraced former Commander Jon Burge.

Thursday morning, a Cook County judge said she can’t immediately grant them certificates of innocence, which would clear their records and allow them to collect damages from the state for their wrongful convictions and imprisonment. 

Cook County prosecutors are opposing their request, and the judge in the case said she needs to give prosecutors a chance to present their case before ruling on the brothers’ request.

Henderson and Tyler originally hoped to get certificates of innocence at a hearing on Monday, but their case was pushed back after the judge indicated there were some matters she wants to explore further.

The delay has left the brothers confused and frustrated, but undeterred.

“If you vacated, if you exonerated us, then what else is left?” Tyler said. “The way you’ve been moving your entire life, without being judged, I want to move like you move. I want to move like everybody else moves that wasn’t incarcerated. I want the same thing that you are entitled to that I should have been entitled to when I was forced to do 25 years. That’s what it’s going to mean to me. That’s what I want. I want what you’ve got.”

“We have every right to stand here before you and ask for our lives back,” Henderson said. “When I walk out of here, I’m still seen as a criminal.”

The brothers’ attorneys said they are confident the judge will grant Tyler and Henderson their certificates of innocence after hearing all the evidence.

“I feel like we live to fight another day, and we will win this case eventually,” said Tyler’s attorney, Karl Leonard.

Henderson’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, blasted prosecutors for fighting against the brothers’ requests for certificates of innocence, despite having dismissed the case against them.

“They say they have facts, but it’s just an empty claim, and that’s the frustration is that we know the truth, because we know the evidence,” she said. “We know from the evidence that has been presented that they don’t have the goods, and that’s why it’s so frustrating, because then it feels just like an effort to delay, and it’s senseless and cruel, and it prolongs suffering unnecessarily.”

In 1994, the then 17- and 18-year-old brothers were arrested and tortured by Chicago police officers under the watch of disgraced former CPD Commander Jon Burge, who himself was convicted in 2010 of lying about the torture of suspects. He served more than three years in prison and died in 2018.

The brothers said they were targeted because Tyler had exposed similar police misconduct in the 1991 murder of Alfredo Hernandez, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Tyler had witnessed that murder, and after 13-year-old Marcus Wiggins was arrested for the murder, Wiggins claimed detectives working under Burge tortured him into a false confession. After Tyler testified during a motion to suppress Wiggins’ confession, he and his co-defendants were either acquitted, or their cases were dismissed.

When Collins was shot and killed in 1994, the same detectives from the Hernandez case arrested Henderson and Tyler, based on false witness statements, and beat them into false confessions, leading to their convictions, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Tyler was released in 2019 and his brother in 2020.

They were exonerated in 2021, when their convictions were dismissed, after an appeals court allowed for hearings on whether detectives conspired to fabricate evidence, and the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission found that the medical evidence and detectives’ troubled history gave merit to their claims.

While in prison, Tyler wrote six books and designed a clothing line, which highlights the strength of their fight for innocence.

“Going into prison at 17 wasn’t what I came out with at 42,” said Tyler. “I truly did have a new vision and I have a new vision.”

Henderson earned his college degree, but by the time the brothers were out of prison, their sister had died. Their mother also died not long after they came home.

“How am I doing?” he said. “You tell me.”

The brothers will be back in court with their lawyers and family on April 20.

Source : https://www.cbsnews.com/news/brothers-exonerated-for-1994-murder-return-to-court-after-bid-for-certificates-of-innocence-delayed/

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