Lawyers: Acquitted man coerced to confess

January 11, 2008 9:01:19 PM PST
He spent nearly six years in jail before he was acquitted of a murder he did not commit. Now, Jovan Mosley is talking about his years behind bars waiting for his trial.

"It was hard, and if I dwell on it, I would be bitter and mad and it would probably make it more hard for me to move on with my life," Mosley said.

Mosley was 19 years old when he says Chicago police coerced him into confessing to a 1999 murder on the city's South Side. Now he's a free man trying to regain his life.

His attorney says this is an example of a complete breakdown of the justice system. He says police coerced Jovan Mosley into confessing to something as simple as hitting a guy and taking a sip of his soda. Next thing he knew he was facing capitol murder charges. He spent nearly six years behind bars before a jury cleared him of all charges.

Jovan Mosley and his attorney say he had never been in trouble, never been arrested, and was a 19-year-old kid with college plans when he suddenly found himself in the maximum security wing of the Cook County Jail charged with murder and facing the death penalty.

He says it was the beginning of a nearly six-year nightmare that Mosley and his attorney say was orchestrated by Chicago police through what, they say, was a coerced confession to a murder he merely witnessed from down the street.

"That was six years of my life taken away for something that they knew that I didn't do," said Mosley.

Police had already arrested three people for the 1999 murder of Howard Thomas outside this home on South Calumet. All three are now serving long prison terms. But they also charged Mosley six months after the murder.

Mosley says they put him in a line-up, where witnesses said he was there, but not involved. He says police interrogated him for 29 hours.

"Nothing to eat, no sleep, not the washroom or anything," Mosley said.

Mosley says they promised to let him go if he would confess to simply hitting the victim twice and taking a sip of his soda. Even though he says he never did that, he agreed.

"It's very purposeful coercion. 'Say you threw two punches.' 'Say you took a sip of pop and you can go home.' But what they knew was that was death penalty murder," said Laura Caldwell, attorney.

Author and attorney Laura Caldwell worked on the case for free, along with the lead attorney Catherine O'Daniel. They say they were moved by the injustice the system dealt Jovan Mosley.

Mosley is now suing the City of Chicago and four of the officers involved for violation of his civil rights. Attorney Sean Mulroney is handling the civil suit.

"There are so few cases you get to take that you feel like you're doing something that's right as well. And this situation is one of those," Mulroney said.

If he wins, Mosley is hoping to get enough money to pay for college.

He plans to put the six years he spent in jail far behind him.

"It's an ongoing process. It's hard, but I'm just trying to make it," said Mosley.

A spokesperson for the city law department says the federal judge has dismissed several counts in the lawsuit. The city believes the case was handled properly. And they are prepared to defend it in court. It is expected to go to trial later this year.