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Exonerated of double murder after serving 21 years, man files lawsuit

At left DePatrick who spent more than 21 years prisfor double murder he did not commit filed federal lawsuit alleging

At left, Deon Patrick, who spent more than 21 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Chicago police officers and Cook County prosecutors manufactured a confession and then coerced Patrick to sign it. Attorney Stuart Chanen stands with him. | Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

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Updated: June 23, 2014 2:23PM

Deon Patrick says he was “no angel” when cops took him to a North Side lockup in 1992, cuffed him to a wall and — over the course of 28 hours — talked him into a double-murder confession.

But Patrick, who served 21 years in prison before murder charges against him were dropped, never made “the leap from selling dime bags to double murder,” Stuart Chanen, one of Patrick’s attorneys, said Monday.

And now, equipped with a certificate of innocence exonerating him of the 1992 slaying of Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook over a drug debt, Patrick says it’s time for those who put him in prison to pay.

Standing before an array of TV cameras in a downtown law office, Patrick and his lawyers announced a 13-count federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. The suit also names Chicago police detectives who worked on the Uptown case, as well as prosecutors who argued for his conviction. The suit does not specify the amount of compensation being sought.

“I want the people that put me there intentionally to experience everything I’ve experienced,” said Patrick, 42, who was released from the Menard Correctional Center in January. “But that’s not going to happen. So the only form of justice I see is filing this civil suit.”

The suit claims the police detectives railroaded Patrick and five other young men, ages 15 to 22, by coercing them to turn on each other during lengthy interrogations. One by one, the detainees signed statements falsely implicating themselves and each other, Patrick said.

“We tried to talk ourselves out of trouble. In this case we talked ourselves into trouble,” Patrick said.

City officials and the state’s attorney’s office both declined to comment.

Patrick’s co-defendant, Daniel Taylor, already has filed a civil rights suit against the city; the suit is pending in federal court. Taylor, who served 20 years, was instrumental in the case against the men falling apart — albeit years after their convictions and with the help of the Northwestern University Innocence Project.

Taylor’s attorneys argued he couldn’t have committed the murders because he was in police custody, locked up on a disorderly conduct charge at the time.

Chanen and Patrick’s other lawyer, Nicole Auerbach, said the actions of the detectives who worked the case fit a troubling pattern that says a lot about police department culture of the 1990s.

“The Chicago Police Department . . . engaged in a pattern of unlawfully coercing confessions over a period of years, frequently preying on young African-American men in order to close unsolved cases through overzealous methods of interrogation,” the suit claims.

Patrick, who was 20 when he was charged, said he was a member of the Vice Lords gang and had been arrested about 15 times. He was well-known on his block when police scooped him up as a murder suspect. But the night of the murder he had been at a friend’s house — a fact that played a role in his release, Chanen said.

Patrick, who has returned to his family and now-grown children in Hazel Crest, offered some advice to others who find themselves in similar circumstances.

“Always request your attorney to be present,” Patrick said.


Twitter: @BrianSlodysko

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