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Illinois Wrongful Conviction Suit Settled for $5 Million

In June 2012, the Village of Woodridge, Illinois, and several of its police officers settled a case brought by a man who bad been wrongfully convicted of rape due to the suppression and fabrication of evidence twenty years earlier. The settlement amount was $5,000,000.

In 1987, Marcus Lyons was a 29-year-old naval reservist working as a computer operator at Bell Labs and taking night college courses to earn his B.S. in computer science. He was also the only black man living in an apartment complex when a woman living there was raped by a black man who gained entrance to her apartment by claiming to be "Mr. Williams from downstairs."

According to court documents, police immediately focused on Lyons, coaxing an identification by the rape victim using improper techniques and ignoring the fact that Lyons did not match the victim's original description of her assailant. Police also testified during the criminal trial that the victim's identification of Lyons had been definitive, when it bad been hesitant and equivocal. They also suppressed exculpatory scientific evidence--biological material from the perpetrator deposited on the victim's underpants.

Lyons was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. He served three of them before being released on parole. Prison as a sex offender is hell, what Loyns was soon to find out was that release on from prison was just the start of another form of hell.

As a convicted sex offender, Lyons was unable to find employment in his chosen field or pursue his career goal of becoming a naval officer. For years, he had to live off temporary work that last only until his employer discovered that he was a registered sex offender. Eventually, he found permanent as a sewage treatment operator. Remained in that job for thirteen years, always fearful that, if he lost that job, he would be unable to find another.

Lyons never stopped attempting to prove his innocence, spending $10,000 of his own money. Eventually he was successful in petitioning for DNA testing. The DNA testing not only proved that Lyons was innocent, it showed who the actual perpetrator was. When police interviewed the actual perpetrator, who had been convicted of other sex offenses, he confessed to the crime.

Aided by Chicago attorneys Authur Loewy, Jon Loevy, Aaron Mandel and Elizabeth Manzur, Lyons filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court. After a summary judgment motion in which Lyons proved the suppression of biological evidence that would have excluded him as the perpetrator even using the blood testing available at the time, defendants opted to settle the case for $5,000,000. See: Lyons . Village of Woodridge, U.S.D.C.-N.D.I11., No. 1:08-cv-05063.


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Related legal case

Lyons v. Village of Woodridge