A total of 88 people sought to have their convictions overturned for being connected to Watts Thursday. The remaining cases will be back in court in January.
“I feel like I won the lottery,” exoneree Darnell Harris told ABC7 by phone.
Watts and one of his team members, Kallatt Mohammed, went to prison in 2013 for their police corruption. Many of the other team members remain on the police force.
“As prosecutors, we know that harm was caused, some of it was done by this office, and it is now our duty to make sure that those harms are addressed and never repeated,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said. “Today is a step towards righting the wrongs of the past and giving these individuals their names back.”
“It’s wonderful that these five are getting justice,” said Joel Flaxman, an attorney for the petitioners. “I’m glad that the state’s attorney is proud of that for the other 88 we can’t be celebrating.”
Foxx spoke exclusively with ABC7 Thursday afternoon and responded to criticism about the time it’s taking for the exonerations.
“We owe it to not only to those men and women who had their convictions vacated, but to the public, to make sure that we are just as thoughtful and deliberate in ensuring that these were convictions we could not stand by,” Foxx said.
Standing with the attorneys on Thursday was Clarissa Glenn, who had been exonerated previously.
“Shame on Chicago. Shame on the system. We are humans,” Glenn said.
In March, COPA announced that it had completed its first investigation pertaining to the Watts team officers who remain on the police force. However, the city continues to withhold the report from the public.
More than 100 convictions tied to Watts and his crew have been dismissed. Watts was sentenced to 22 months; Mohammed was sentenced to 18 months.
Attorneys from the Exoneration Project and others are petitioning so their clients can move on with their lives without the stain of a bogus conviction on their record.
“An unfathomable amount of corruption in the 2nd District led by what I truly believe to be the most corrupt Chicago police officer in the history of this city,” said Josh Tepfer, an attorney with the Exoneration Project.
Meanwhile, there is an ongoing CPD internal investigation in others officers associated with Watts who are still on the force.
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