CHICAGO (AP) - A Cook County judge on Wednesday set aside the convictions of four Chicago men who were imprisoned for years for their alleged involvement in 1995 double murder during an auto dealership robbery.
Prosecutors in July dropped the charges against Charles Johnson and Larod Styles, but then State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said they would be retried. Both men were freed on bail.
Alvarez's replacement, Kim Foxx, decided not to retry the men, saying in a statement Wednesday her office would not be able to sustain its burden of proof if the cases were retried.
"There were times I felt like it was too much for me to bear, he was like, 'Man, it's going to be all right, you're going to make it,'" Styles said after the judge's decision.
Johnson and Styles were sentenced to life in prison for the 1995 murders of Yousef Ali and Khalid Ibrahim during a robbery of the victims' car dealership.
The men were granted new trials in light of fingerprint evidence their attorneys say points to another culprit.
Lawshawn Ezell, who was convicted of armed robbery, completed his 20-year prison sentence. Troshawn McCoy, who has nearly finished serving his 55-year prison sentence, remained behind bars awaiting a hearing on his petition for a new trial.
Johnson, a Cola-Cola deliveryman, signed a confession saying he planned to steal cars for parts to sell on the black market. Johnson, 39, now claims Chicago Police detectives pressured him into confessing. Styles, like Johnson a teenager at the time, also confessed.
Johnson's lawyers argued he signed the confession only after he was told it was a routine document that would lead to his release.
Lawyers from several firms, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Convictions worked for years to overturn the convictions. Lawyers say a fingerprint lifted from dealership price sticker peeled from a stolen vehicle and discarded in the lot matched a convicted drug dealer who lived just a block from where the vehicle was ditched.