Judge tosses 4 murder convictions

November 16, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Prosecutors must now decide if they will put the men on trial again.

Defense attorneys say the confessions to the 1994 rape and murder of Nina Glover, an alleged prostitute, were coerced.

After serving time for Glover's murder, the four men were overwhelmed Wednesday afternoon to learn that their convictions would be thrown out.

"I was extremely emotional. Again, it was a step in the right direction. We've been fighting for 17 years and finally this judge, he started to acknowledge that," said Terrill Swift.

"I just gave them all a hug, just let them know everything is going to be okay and just shared my joy with them," Vincent Thames said when asked if was able to share the moment with the other men.

Swift, Thames, Michael Saunders and Harold Richardson were all convicted in Glover's rape and murder. As juveniles, they had confessed. One pleaded guilty and they all went to prison.

But a new DNA test pointed to another man - a now deceased convicted sex offender - as the real killed. Based on the DNA finding, Judge Paul Biebel threw out the convictions of the four men. It will also mean their names will be removed from the state's sex offender registry.

"At times, it was like being worse. When you're labeled as a sex offender, you can't pretty much breathe. Now I am able to breathe a little bit," said Swift.

Saunders and Richardson remained locked up for now.

With Wednesday's case, there have now been, by one count, over 90 people wrongfully imprisoned in Illinois since 1989. Most have been released because of DNA evidence.

Jonathan Barr was released with three others earlier this month for a 1991 murder in Dixmoor now linked by DNA to another suspect. ABC7 interviewed Barr in 1991 as a teenager shortly before he was arrested. On Wednesday afternoon, the newly freed Barr came to show his support for four other men.

"It's an extremely long process, but I have faith in God, I have my brother with me, we're going to make it. If we do nothing else, we're going to make it," said Barr.

The state's attorney's office does have the option of retrying the case, but they have no physical evidence, no confessions and the DNA points to a dead man. The state will decide on November 28, when the men will be back in court.

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