Federal jury sentences man arrested in fire to $27 million


In what could become a local record for a wrongful conviction case, a federal jury said Thursday against a man who was wrongfully convicted of double-lethal arson as a teenager and spent more than 20 years in prison in Chicago. He found police extortion and sentenced him to $27 million. His confession falsified evidence and violated civil rights.

As the verdict was announced in the court of U.S. District Judge Edmund Chan, plaintiff Adam Gray bowed his head and leaned against attorney Jon Robey, who hugged his shoulder.

Rovey later told reporters that Gray’s life had been “immeasurably damaged” by the ordeal, but that he was trying to get his life back on track.

“Adam was arrested before breakfast, the case was closed before noon, and he went home early for dinner,” Mr Rovey said in the lobby of Dirksen Federal Court. “It took 24 years for the system to solve the problem.”

“These dirty cops need to be stopped,” Gray said in a short statement.

“It’s out of control,” he said. “Break through the blue walls of silence.”

Gray then left the courthouse while the press conference was still going on and walked to the nearby hotel where she was staying.

The $27 million in damages awarded by the jury is believed to be the highest ever awarded to a single plaintiff in a wrongful conviction case, handing Eddie Bolden a wrongful murder conviction in 2021. over $25.2 million.

The jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict, but did not award punitive damages in favor of Daniel McInerney, one of the surviving detectives named in the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the city’s legal affairs bureau could not immediately be reached for comment.

In addition to being sued for damages, the city has also paid outside attorneys millions of dollars to defend themselves in this lawsuit, a questionable move Mr. Rovey should answer for city officials. claimed.

“This is a case to be resolved,” he said. “This is a case that Adam has been reasonably trying to solve for a long time. The City of Chicago will instead pay outside attorneys millions of dollars in legal fees, alleging they did nothing wrong.” I’ve decided…I’m getting frustrated.”

Mr. Rovey did not elaborate on what settlement proposals were made, but said that “all of Adam’s demands were outweighed by jury judgment,” and that the city’s proposal “is now, by comparison, in some ways. It looks ridiculous,” he said.

Gray was arrested at the tender age of 14 and sentenced to life in prison without parole until Cook County prosecutors decided the conviction was too questionable due to advances in fire science in the 1993 arson charge. Released in May 2017. Two people died on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

His 54-page lawsuit, filed five years ago, names the city of Chicago, as well as dozens of former Chicago police detectives, young police officers, former Cook County lieutenant attorneys, and former fire marshals.

The complaint alleges that after hours of illegal interrogation, detectives “fabricated and coerced” Gray into a false confession while denying access to his mother and brother who were trying to talk to him at the station. are doing. Instead, detectives told Gray that her mother “didn’t care about him and refused to come to the police station at all,” the complaint alleges.

Police and prosecutors allege that at the time of the fire, Gray was upset that a girl who lived in a two-story apartment on the 4100th block of South Albany Avenue rejected him. Investigative officials claim that an eighth grader ignited a facilitator that was poured into the enclosed backyard and stairs on the second floor. The girl and her parents escaped, but upstairs resident Peter McGuinness, 54, and her sister Margaret Mesa, 74, were killed.

At Gray’s trial, prosecutors focused on evidence of intentional arson and Gray’s confession. Two fire investigators said they found crocodile scars and deep burn marks at the scene, which they concluded were evidence of a high-temperature fire using an accelerator. A jug of milk found in the alley behind the house contained what police believed was an accelerator. A gas station clerk said Gray had bought gasoline just before the fire.

In a statement to police, Gray admitted to buying gasoline for the arson, but said he confessed only under pressure from officers during the interrogation, after which he denied the confession. Gray’s lawyer said he was questioned for seven hours and could not stand it any longer.

The complaint alleges that police “obtained” an empty milk jug at some point during the interrogation and fabricated a story that Gray filled it with gas. An inspection found no gasoline or gas residue in or on the jug, the complaint says.

At one point, one of the interrogating detectives allegedly told Gray that he could use a copy machine to “determine if he had gasoline on his hands,” according to court records of the case. Detectives made a copy of the boy’s hand and said, “The machine showed lead.”

Court records show that the same detective allegedly told Gray that he believed he might be innocent, but that “the only way out of here is to say you did it.” Afterwards, detectives would drop Gray off at school if he confessed, but he offered to “give him the electric chair” if he didn’t.

Gray had a long way to go before the charges were dropped. Advances in fire science date back to his early 1990s, around the time of Gray’s conviction, but it took investigators years to accept the changes. Instead, they continued investigating fires using methods learned from veteran colleagues or gleaned from their own experience, even if their practice was not grounded in science.

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The new rule is now widely accepted by fire investigators, and as a result, prosecutors and defense attorneys across the country are reviewing old cases to determine whether the fire at the center of the case was in fact arson. are reopening. Many convictions were ignored.

In Gray’s case, bad science is just one of a myriad of problems in the investigation, Rovey said.

“It was an All-Star team with a wrongful conviction,” Rovey said. “There were false confessions, crappy science, and false eyewitness accounts, all of which came together for Adam Gray.”

Meanwhile, Gray has been trying to rebuild his life since being released from prison. Lovi is now married and lives quietly in the woods, she said. “But they took a lot from him,” he said.

A few minutes later, Lovi looked around and laughed as he noticed Gray had left the courthouse.

“Adam is finished,” he said. “He’s not going to set foot in another court. He’s done with the justice system.”

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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