There is good news out of Illinois this week: Daniel Taylor, whose case we previously covered, has been released from prison. Last Friday, June 28, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office filed a motion to vacate Taylor’s conviction following a review of his case by the Illinois Attorney Generals Office.
Taylor was one of eight co-defendants arrested for the shooting deaths of Sharon Haugabook and Jeffrey Lassiter in Chicago in 1992. Logs used by police to track the custody of individuals in a local police station showed that Taylor could not have committed the murders because he was locked up, but prosecutors dismissed the evidence at trial as a clerical error. Police officers from the station testified that it was in fact likely that Taylor had been released prior to the crime.
Taylor’s attempts to prove his innocence were complicated by the fact that he confessed to the murders on the night of his arrest.
However, in 2001, the Chicago Tribune investigated Taylor’s case and turned up Brady material in the prosecutor’s file which hadn’t been disclosed to Taylor’s defense team, including handwritten notes from interviews with police officers who were in charge of the lockup at the time of the murder. In the interviews, one police officer says “he’s convinced” that Taylor was still at the station at 10pm – the time that the crime occurred.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office continued to defend its prosecution of Taylor, casting aside the Brady violations as “an unsubstantiated allegation.”
However, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office decided to look over the case while it was pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. While reviewing the case, the AG’s Office found notes made by the prosecuting attorneys in the case which suggested that seven different police officers, including some who had testified at Taylor’s trial, confirmed that Taylor was in police custody at the time of the murders.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did an about-face soon after the AG’s Office competed its review, and moved to vacate Taylor’s conviction and sentence.
A summary of the case has been written by former Chicago Tribune reporter Maurice Posley at the National Registry of Exonerations. You can read Posley’s post here.