This week, I joined Chicago-area ColorOfChange.org members to deliver more than 66,000 petition signatures to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. The petition demands that State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez immediately acknowledge the innocence of 10 falsely accused Black men (known as the Cook County 10) and agree to vacate the convictions of nine who were convicted for crimes they didn’t commit.
Terrill Swift, one of the men who was coerced into falsely confessing to a crime, and his family joined us for the delivery. Please check out video from the day’s events:
Swift was paroled last year after spending 15 years in an Illinois prison for rape and murder. DNA testing performed during the original investigation indicated his innocence. Earlier this month, he told Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Mills, “If I was guilty, I would have done my time and tried to proceed with my life. But I can’t continue to walk around like a convicted felon when I didn’t do nothing. So I’m fighting it.”
Recent DNA testing has proven the innocence of all the men, most of whom were forced to confess as teenagers to crimes they didn’t commit. Some of them have been imprisoned for nearly 20 years. Despite overwhelming evidence that has linked the crimes to the real killers, state officials have refused to recognize the innocence of these men.
ColorOfChange.org was also joined on Tuesday by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, the Innocence Project, and the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago.
Joshua Tepfer, an attorney for the men, told the crowd, “In each case the confessions were the only evidence connecting these teenagers to the crime used to secure the convictions. These confessions were false, they were lies, there were coerced from scared, young teenagers who never envisioned that their false confessions would send them to prison for the better part of their lives.”
Attorney Alvarez now knows that more than 60,000 people nationwide want her to do what’s right. Her office can ensure a speedy release for these wrongfully convicted Cook County residents. They deserve nothing less.