CHICAGO (AP) — A man who for years claimed Chicago police tortured him into confessing to a double murder was ordered released Wednesday, eight years after his co-defendant was pardoned and freed by the then-governor.
Cook County Judge William H. Hooks dismissed the charges against Eric Caine and ordered his release on the same day the ex-lieutenant Caine accused of threatening him with a gun reported to prison for lying about the torture of suspects.
Caine, 45, was expected to be released Thursday from Menard Correctional Center, where he had been serving a life sentence.
His co-defendant, Aaron Patterson, was one of four men pardoned from death row by then-Gov. George Ryan in 2003. Both Patterson and Caine claimed then-Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and officers under his command tortured them into confessing to the killing a Chicago couple in 1986.
News of Caine's impending release came on the same day Burge reported to federal prison in North Carolina after being convicted last year of lying about the torture of suspects.
"This is a great day for justice," said attorney Russell Ainsworth. "On the day that Jon Burge is headed for prison, Eric Caine got word he is coming home."
Patterson was sentenced to death but was pardoned by Ryan after the Republican said he'd concluded Patterson's confession was coerced. Ryan freed three other men with similar torture claims.
Caine languished in prison for 25 years, trying unsuccessfully to get the case against him re-examined. Patterson "got the attention, the publicity, the pardon, and Eric Caine was left behind," Ainsworth said.
Hooks ruled in January that Caine was entitled to a post-conviction hearing based on his allegations of torture, and prosecutors decided to drop the case rather than proceed, said former Judge Stuart Nudelman, who's acting as the special prosecutor in Caine's case.
"We were left with, at this point, a questionable confession and really no other evidence," Nudelman said. "Had we been forced to go to trial ... we would not have been able to meet our burden."
Caine has claimed Burge walked into the police station room where he was being held, put a gun on the table and told him if he didn't confess, he'd be worse off. Then one of the detectives cupped his hand and hit Caine so hard on the side of the head that he ruptured his eardrum, Ainsworth said.
"Blinded by the pain, Eric Caine gave a statement that was not true," he said.
Ainsworth said there was no other evidence of his guilt, including fingerprints or DNA. At the time of the slaying, Caine testified that he was at his aunt's birthday party.
Caine's family members were relieved with the judge's ruling.
"I'm still a little in shock, can't believe it," said Caine's 36-year-old cousin Tuneshia Lockett. "We've been praying about it for so long. ... He always believed he was innocent and he's been fighting for a long time.""
Lockett and Ainsworth said they were going to see Caine on Thursday, and it was unclear if he had heard the news.
"I'm going to hug him and we're going to plot out the rest of his life," Ainsworth said.Tags: