CHICAGO (SUN-TIMES) - A former Fisk University student says he lost a decade of his life when he was framed for dealing drugs on Chicago’s North Side in 2006 and falsely imprisoned.
Now, Jermaine Walker is a free man. His conviction and 22-year prison sentence have been overturned. And on Thursday, he and his lawyers announced a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago, Cook County, four Chicago police officers and an investigator who worked on his case for the Cook County State’s Attorney, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
“I still don’t understand why it happened,” Walker said during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the law firm of Loevy & Loevy.
Walker said his case turned on the existence of a surveillance camera mounted in an alley near 1020 W. Lawrence. That’s where Walker was pulled over by police in February 2006 while driving on Lawrence with his brother. He claims he was beaten for not immediately agreeing to let officers search his car.
Russell Ainsworth, Walker’s attorney, said a camera has been in that alley “for decades.” But the lawsuit accuses state’s attorney investigator Thomas Finnelly of taking photographs there to make it look like no camera existed. Then, Cook County prosecutors allegedly told jurors Walker was lying about the existence of a camera, saying “there is absolutely no evidence of that.”
Walker said he chose to represent himself at trial because, “I put my faith in God, and not man,” and he was denied the use of an investigator, according to his lawsuit. It wasn’t until 2008 that he asked for legal counsel. Assistant Public Defender Ingrid Gill looked into his claims, and he filed a petition with new evidence proving the camera’s existence in May 2015.
“He got the result that you get when the other side’s not playing fair,” Ainsworth said.
A Cook County judge vacated Walker’s indictment in March, telling him there were “no words that can explain how sorry I am that the justice system failed in this case. And we worked very hard to try to ensure that the truth comes out and, you know, it just took so long for it to come out.”
Gill called it “the most disturbing case I’ve seen in 25 years in the office.”
“This Cook County state’s attorney investigator was a former police officer,” Gill said. “He was a former Chicago police officer. This opens up a whole other aspect of misconduct, which I find so troubling.”
Chicago Police Sgt. Michael White and Officers Eric Reyes, Sebastian Flatley and Brian Daly are also named in the lawsuit. A spokesman for City Hall’s law department did not immediately comment. A spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said an investigation is ongoing into inconsistent testimony at Walker’s trial, and she said Finnelly left the state’s attorney’s office in 2010.