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Legal Clinic Attorneys Seek New Trial in Daniel Taylor Case

Center on Wrongful Convictions says murder conviction result of false confession and information withheld by the Cook County State’s Attorney

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January 31, 2013 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

CHICAGO — The Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) at Northwestern University School of Law filed a petition today in the Cook County Circuit Court seeking a new trial for Daniel Taylor, who has been in prison for two decades for a double murder to which he confessed but could not have committed because he was in police custody when it occurred. 

Karen Daniel, senior staff attorney at the CWC and Taylor’s lead counsel, said that police records show that Taylor was sitting in a police lockup at the time of the murders: approximately 8:45 p.m. on November 16, 1992. What’s more, the records show that police picked up and arrested Taylor for disorderly conduct more than two hours before the murders occurred, and released him later that evening at 10 p.m., more than an hour after the murders. 

While some of this information was presented at trial, last year the Office of the Illinois Attorney General discovered, in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s case file, an assistant state’s attorney’s notes of interviews with several of the lockup personnel, as well as other supporting police records, that were not disclosed to the defense before trial. These notes and records further confirm that Taylor was in police custody at the time of the murders.

Thus, not only is Taylor innocent, but his 1995 trial was constitutionally infirm because the prosecutors did not provide the defense with all of the available relevant evidence, Daniel said. 

“This is a quintessential false confession case,” said Rob Warden, CWC executive director. “Since Daniel Taylor’s conviction, there have been 77 documented wrongful convictions in Cook County and, of those, 31 involve false confessions. It is a very serious problem that was not appreciated in the early 1990s, but it is now.”

Taylor’s case was in federal district court when this new information in the State’s Attorney’s file came to light. The federal judge put the proceedings there on hold so that Taylor could file a new petition in the Cook County Circuit Court seeking a new trial based on the prosecutions failure to turn over this evidence before trial.

Taylor appealed his 1995 conviction, but in October 1998 the Illinois Appellate Court denied the appeal with an unpublished decision. In 2004, Taylor filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging, among other things, that he had been denied due process of law and that he was actually innocent.  Even though the State’s Attorney called for a hearing on the actual innocence claim, the judge dismissed Taylor’s petition without a hearing, saying it had no merit.

Taylor was only 17 when he confessed to the murders of Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. One witness for the prosecution, a drug dealer who claimed he saw Taylor in nearby Clarendon Park shortly before the murders, has since recanted his testimony. Other witnesses who saw a group of men leaving the scene of the crime say Taylor was not among them. Seven other young men originally were charged along with Taylor in the case. The cases against three of the defendants fell apart -- charges were dropped against two of those after their confessions were thrown out and the third was acquitted -- but Taylor and four others were convicted.
Topics: University