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Chicago Police Department Headquarters. | Source: NOVA SAFO / Getty

Jackie Wilson, a Chicago man, who was wrongfully convicted for the fatal shooting of two police officers in 1982, was awarded a whopping $17 million settlement on March 14.

Approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the substantial settlement arrives more than three decades after a judge determined Wilson’s innocence and acknowledged that he had been coerced into falsely confessing to the killing of Chicago police officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien.

In a statement sent to NewsOne via email, lawyers for Wilson said they were satisfied with the Cook County board’s long-awaited decision.

“As the Cook County courts recognized when granting a certificate of innocence, Jackie Wilson was wrongfully convicted of a senseless and horrific crime. During his 36 years of wrongful imprisonment, Jackie suffered unimaginable pain and trauma that few people could ever truly understand,” a representative from Loevy and Loevy and the People’s Law Office wrote on behalf of Wilson.

“With this settlement, Cook County acknowledges and limits the substantial risk that this litigation poses to taxpayers while also allowing Jackie to move forward with what remains of his life.

The firm added, “Now it is time for the City of Chicago to likewise appreciate the serious exposure it faces in this case and act consistently with the promises of Mayor Johnson and his predecessors who have long acknowledged the serious harm that Jon Burge and other Chicago police torturers have inflicted upon Jackie, other torture survivors, and Chicago’s communities of color.”

 

What happened to Jackie Wilson?

During a routine traffic stop in 1982, Wilson’s brother, Andrew, opened fire, fatally shooting Fahey and O’Brien, according to the Chicago Tribune. At the time, Jackie Wilson, then 21, was behind the wheel of the vehicle and was following the officers’ instructions when the shooting occurred.

During his trial, Wilson admitted to fleeing the scene with his brother Andrew, but he maintained that he was unaware of his sibling’s intent to harm the officers. In 1983, he was convicted of the murders and slammed with a life sentence.

Wilson claimed in a 2021 lawsuit that he had been coerced into confessing by Chicago police officers under the command of notorious Area 2 Commander Jon Burge, WTTW noted. Allegedly subjected to repeated beatings and electroshocks by Burge and his associates, Wilson stated that he falsely confessed to the crimes out of fear for his life, believing that providing a statement was his only chance of leaving Area 2 alive.

This confession, extracted under duress, was obtained by an assistant Cook County state’s attorney and a court reporter, who were purportedly aware of the torture Wilson endured. Despite the conviction in 1983 for the murders, Wilson’s conviction was overturned in 1987, only to face retrial two years later, in which he was convicted a second time for O’Brien’s murder but acquitted in Fahey’s death.

In his lawsuit, Wilson, now 62, alleged that during the retrial, prosecutors and police persisted in fabricating false evidence and withholding exculpatory evidence. This purported misconduct included former Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko’s collusion with a jailhouse informant, William David Coleman, to concoct a false narrative incriminating him of the shootings.

He spent 36 years behind bars until Cook County Judge Williams Hooks issued him a second trial and tossed out his conviction, preventing his false confession from being used as evidence in the trial. Prosecutors claimed that Trutenko lied on the stand about having a close relationship with Coleman.

Trutenko and fellow former assistant state’s attorney Andrew Horvat, who also allegedly played a part in wrongfully imprisoning Wilson, have been charged in connection to the flawed prosecution. Trutenko faces charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, while Horvat faces multiple counts of official misconduct.

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