City of Chicago Attorneys: Prosecutors Didn’t Believe Men Innocent of Murder

May 26, 2021
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Eric Zorn, Gregory Pratt, Chicago Tribune’s coverage of murder and rape case challenged in federal court, again

Attorneys representing the City of Chicago are alleging top prosecutors in Cook County State’s Attorney (CCSA) Kimberly Foxx’s office did not believe two men released from prison for the chilling rape and murder of a young woman were innocent of the crime.

The allegations, made in a motion asking a judge to dismiss the federal lawsuit against the detectives who investigated the murder, undermine media coverage of the case, particularly by Chicago Tribune reporter Greg Pratt and columnist Eric Zorn. The allegations by the city attorneys, for example, reject a 2017 column by Eric Zorn that the Foxx administration should release Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton from prison for the rape and murder of Antwinica Bridgeman in the basement of Nevest Coleman’s South Side apartment because the evidence of the men’s innocence was, according to Zorn, “overwhelming.”

In his 2017 column in which he admonished Foxx for a delay in releasing the two men from prison, Zorn wrote:

"Yet you’re [Foxx] allowing Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton to continue to rot in prison in the face of overwhelming new evidence that they are innocent of a 1994 rape and murder in the Englewood neighborhood."

But now city attorneys are arguing that Foxx’s own top prosecutors didn’t believe either Coleman or Fulton were innocent.

Police were called in 1994 to the murder scene by Coleman and another man, who reported a terrible odor emanating from the basement. Inside, police found Bridgeman’s decomposed body, a metal pipe shoved into her vagina and her faced bashed in with a brick. Witnesses told police that Bridgeman was last seen leaving a party with Coleman several days earlier. Both men eventually confessed to the crime.

Coleman and Fulton’s bid for freedom was given life when a later, more-sophisticated DNA test of a sample from Bridgeman’s undergarments came back to another individual, Clarence Neal, who had been convicted of several sexual assaults. Claiming this DNA test vindicated Fulton and Coleman, attorneys representing both men brought the case to Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, where it was reviewed by prosecutors in the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). It was also reviewed by prosecutors considering whether Neal should be prosecuted for the murder, including Foxx’s then-First Assistant, Eric Sussman.

Focusing on the how top prosecutors in Foxx’s office reviewed the new evidence, city attorneys allege that even these individuals still believed after their review that the two men were culpable in the vicious attack, even with the new DNA evidence. They also believed that the detectives and prosecutors who convicted the men did not commit misconduct. They are requesting a federal judge dismiss the lawsuit against the detectives.

From court records:

"In fact, through discovery in this case, the parties [city attorneys] were able to explore the decision-making process that took place among the highest-ranking members of the CCSAO, including former first assistant Eric Sussman These individuals concluded that Plaintiffs [Coleman and Fulton] are likely guilty, despite the DNA evidence, and that Plaintiffs' confession were not coerced."

Adding to the alarmingly suspicious bias in the media coverage of the case, both Pratt and Zorn have gone completely silent about the bombshell allegations that even the prosecutors who reviewed the new evidence in the case did not believe there was “overwhelming” evidence of the men’s innocence, as Zorn claimed in his column. So, too, has the Tribune’s federal courts reporter, Jason Meisner. In fact, not one media outlet in Chicago has covered the allegations by city attorneys.

One particularly troubling allegation in the motion is the basis for the prosecutor’s decision not to retry Coleman and Fulton for the murder. They allege prosecutors determined reconvicting the men would have been difficult in “this day and age.”

Two of the detectives who worked on the murder case, Kenneth Boudreau and Jack Halloran, have long been attacked by Zorn and the Tribune, accused in a “pattern” of cases that they coerced confessions from suspects.

Is part of the “day and age” the prosecutors are talking about the relentless media attacks on these detectives? Is the media pressure from outlets like the Tribune influencing the decisions by prosecutors in heinous rape cases? Is that the “day and age” the prosecutors were talking about? Why is there not one media outlet in Chicago covering the allegations by city attorneys in the motion?

In the end, how much of the mythology of police misconduct established by the likes of Zorn and the Tribune, a mythology that is a bedrock of the anti-police movement, how much of it is accurate? How much of it is the work of a biased, activist media?

Even the Chicago White Sox owe an explanation to the citizens of Chicago. When Coleman was arrested for the murders, he worked for the Sox as a groundskeeper. When Coleman was released, the Sox rehired him and even held a ceremony in which they gave him a ring for the championship they won while Coleman was serving time in prison. Why is the franchise celebrating a self-admitted gang member whom even prosecutors may not believe is innocent of a heinous rape and murder?  

And then there is Kimberly Foxx. The Coleman-Fulton exoneration adds to a growing body of highly suspicious releases of convicted killers under her tenure, clearly manifestations of her antipathy toward the police that will no doubt bolster the anti-police movement not only for Chicago’s media sycophants, but in massive settlements and verdicts against police officers.

The silence from the media in the wake of so much evidence that Foxx is throwing officers under her progressive, anti-police bus may be a key factor in the city’s shocking level of violence, a breakdown in one of the most important institutions to help the police protect the public.

Would Foxx’s predecessor, Anita Alvarez, who, like Foxx, is a minority, have released Coleman and Fulton and a host of others as Foxx did, thereby fanning the flames of anti-police movement? Hardly. Alvarez’s administration rejected as ludicrous numerous exonerations that Foxx later gave a green light to shortly after being elected.

More and more, the journalists are avoiding the motions and arguments in federal court undermining their anti-police mythology and making a mockery of their incessant calls for transparency, accountability, and police reform.

None more so than Gregory Pratt, Eric Zorn, and the Chicago Tribune.

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