The Chicago Tribune featured an editorial today about the case of Daniel Taylor, a man sentenced to life without parole for a double homicide that took place in 1992 when he was just 17-years-old.
His conviction was largely the result of a 25-page confession he signed two weeks after the murders. No DNA evidence or fingerprints linked Taylor to the scene, and no weapon was recovered. Furthermore, shortly after he signed the confession, Taylor recalled and an arrest report confirmed that he had been locked up for disorderly conduct on the night of the murder from 6:45 PM to 10:00 PM. The crimes took place at 8:45. In order to dispute his alibi, police officers asserted that they had seen Taylor on the streets that night and that the arrest record was incorrect. Taylor later revealed that police yelled and hit him with a flashlight, telling him that he would be let go if he confessed to the crime.
Seven others were arrested and charged for the same murders that Taylor has been serving a life sentence for. All but one have maintained their innocence, and the individual who admits involvement also says that Taylor was not there.
Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit granted Daniel Taylor permission to file a new appeal. Much of the evidence they relied on to reach this decision was available before the original trial, but it was not disclosed to Taylor’s attorneys by prosecutors. This evidence includes notes from the officers running the lockup on the night of the murders and police reports containing the name of another man who was locked up at the same time, both of which could have been used to corroborate Taylor’s alibi.
The recent review of Daniel Taylor’s conviction comes nearly a decade after Cook County prosecutors reexamined the case and concluded that they had it right the first time. According to the Tribune editorial, the 2002 reinvestigation “focused more on supporting Taylor”s conviction than on exploring evidence of his innocence… They were only two-thirds of the way through the investigation when they announced their conclusion that Taylor”s conviction was solid.” Fast forward to the 7th Circuit decision, which held that the newly disclosed evidence offered “strong proof” of Taylor’s innocence and that his original confession was “suspect.”
As we have seen in countless wrongful conviction cases, innocent men and women have to endure years and years behind bars before the truth can finally come out. In Daniel Taylor’s case, he has spent more than half his life in prison and only now is being given the opportunity to prove his innocence, which rests on evidence that has been in place since before his original trial.
If Taylor is, in fact, innocent, who is going to hold the prosecutors accountable for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense team? What will happen to the police officers who lied about Taylor’s whereabouts on the night of the murders? As we all know, prosecutorial immunity clauses lead to significant hurdles for those wanting to file civil lawsuits, and it can take years and years for a police misconduct case to get pushed through the system.
Fortunately for Daniel Taylor, he has the Chicago news media on his side willing to fight for him, but he still has a long road ahead navigating through our criminal ‘justice’ system.
To learn more about another juvenile case, please visit Erik Jensen’s website. Erik was wrongfully convicted of murder in Colorado and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole at age 17. His conviction was largely the result of false statements made by another teenager who was present at the crime scene. In prison since 1999, Erik continues to fight for his freedom.