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Editorial: Hard to be at murder scene, jail at same time

Daniel Taylor serving life sentence for 1992 double murder committed time when police records show he was lockup. IDOC photo

Daniel Taylor, serving life sentence for 1992 double murder committed at at time when police records show he was in a lockup. IDOC photo

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Updated: March 5, 2013 6:19AM

If anybody deserves a new trial, it’s probably Daniel Taylor.

Taylor, now 37, has been in prison for two decades for a 1992 double murder in an Uptown apartment that took place when records indicate Taylor was elsewhere — in a police lockup on a disorderly conduct charge. According to the records, he was in the 23rd District Station from 6:55 p.m. to 10 p.m. The crime occurred at 8:43 p.m.

That’s enough to make any case exceptional. But there’s more.

Two witnesses and a co-defendant — only one of whom testified at the original trial — saw the killers. They say Taylor wasn’t one of them.

A drug dealer who testified that he saw Taylor in a nearby park hours after the shooting has since recanted.

New, more-detailed notes found by the Illinois attorney general’s office last year show seven 23rd District police personnel backed Taylor’s lockup alibi. Those records should have been turned over to the defense at the time of the trial, but Taylor’s trial lawyers say they were not.

One of the seven, a retired police officer who was on duty in the lockup, now says it’s just not possible that Taylor was freed or escaped earlier than 10 p.m., as prosecutors suggested at trial. Too many personnel from two different watches would have had to conspire to falsify the records, he says.

Eight years ago, even prosecutors agreed Taylor, who’s serving a life sentence, should get a hearing on his claim of innocence. But in a ruling that’s very unusual when both prosecutors and defense lawyers are on board, the judge refused.

On Thursday, lawyers from the Center on Wrongful Convictions filed a petition asking for a new trial. This time, the court should grant it.

Virtually the only evidence against Taylor is a confession, which he says he made under pressure. Back in the early 1990s, people generally didn’t understand how frequently suspects — especially teenagers, as Taylor was then — confess falsely. Since then, 31 false confessions have been documented in Cook County, and more undoubtedly never have come to light.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office has not yet commented on the latest filing. We hope the office will agree this is a case that calls for a new trial.

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