Maurice Patterson never got the apology he wanted from the judge who sentenced him to 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. But he’s about to get something more valuable from Chicago taxpayers: a $3.4 million settlement.
On Tuesday, the City Council’s Finance Committee will be asked to sign off on the payment, culminating a legal odyssey that saw Patterson spend eight years behind bars only to be released in October 2010 after DNA evidence cleared him of the murder. The evidence was taken from a knife that Cook County prosecutors originally claimed had no connection to the crime. As the DNA test showed years later, the knife had the victim’s blood on it with the blood of another man, a convicted offender, who lived near the crime scene.
Patterson’s case was championed by Rob Warden of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, but the process that ultimately freed him two years ago was set in motion by Patterson himself. While imprisoned, Patterson filed a Freedom of Information request for the lab report on the knife. The request came through after the Center on Wrongful Convictions had already taken the case.
After the new evidence came to light, Judge David Linn ordered a new trial in November 2009. Less than a year later, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped all charges, and Linn ordered Patterson, now 46, released. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office has said it prosecuted the case “in good faith based on eyewitness ac-counts and forensic evidence that was believed to be the totality of the evidence.”