City poised to approve $50M settlement involving Chicago police framing of 'Marquette Park Four'

4 then-teens sent to prison for 1995 double murder they did not commit

Craig Wall Image
Monday, June 10, 2024
City poised to approve $50M settlement in 'Marquette Park Four' case
The city of Chicago is poised to settle a major wrongful conviction case involving a police framing case.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The city of Chicago is poised to settle a major wrongful conviction case involving the police framing of the so-called "Marquette Park Four."

The then-teenagers were all sent to prison for a 1995 double murder they did not commit.

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It is going to cost the city $50 million to make things right for the Marquette Park Four: Charles Johnson, LaRod Styles, Troshawn McCoy and Lashawn Ezel, who were exonerated in 2017.

The four were convicted of a 1995 double murder and robbery of two men at a South Side car sales business.

They were all teens at the time of their arrest, and confessed to a detective, who had worked under infamous police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

The city will be responsible for $21 million, and insurance policies will cover the remaining $29 million.

On Monday, the Finance Committee approved the Law Department's proposed settlement.

"The plaintiff spent a total of 73 years in prison. This settlement equates to $685,000 per year of custody. Typically at a trial, plaintiffs ask for $1 to $2 million per year of custody from the jury," said Jessica Felker, deputy corporation counsel of federal civil rights litigation.

That would equate to a settlement between $73 and $146 million.

"We need to be really thinking about what kind of standard that we're setting for these things, and this settlement seems to exceed the standards that have been previously set," 34th Ward Ald. Bill Conway said.

This is just the latest in a long list of wrongful conviction lawsuits against the city.

A study of federal settlements from 2000-2023 shows the city paid out nearly $538 million in settlements and jury awards for wrongful convictions and nearly $138 million more for private outside legal fees.

Civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth, who started the Truth Hope and Justice Initiative, said the city needs to do more to assess risk in these types of cases and settle them more quickly.

"Taxpayers should be outraged because there's been hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on litigating these cases. And there's hundreds of millions in the pipeline today," Stroth said.

This proposed settlement next heads to the full City Council on Wednesday, where there could be more questions. But, based on the risk of going to trial and having it cost the city even more, the settlement is expected to be approved.