Murder charges dropped against man imprisoned for 21 years
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter January 10, 2014 12:55PM
Updated: February 12, 2014 6:10AM
Cook County prosecutors Friday dismissed murder charges against an Uptown man who has spent the last 21 years behind bars for a double murder he says he didn’t commit.
Deon Patrick, 42, walked out of the Downstate Menard Correctional Center shortly before 8:30 p.m. Friday night, and grabbed his son, Deon, Jr., in a bear hug.
“Last time I was out here, he was just 11 months, and now he’s 22,” Patrick said after his attorneys drove him to a restaurant to eat before hitting the road toward Chicago.
“I don’t really even realize this is happening yet, so I really don’t know how I feel,” he said. “It’s been so long since I’ve been able to be this close to my son, just being able to sit next to him and not be in that environment.”
Patrick has long argued that he is innocent of the 1992 murders of Sharon Haugabook and Jeffrey Lassiter in an Uptown apartment, and that his confession was coerced.
On Friday, six months after they dismissed charges against Patrick co-defendant Daniel Taylor in the same case, prosecutors decided to drop Patrick’s case.
“Based upon the collective results of our investigation and our continuing review of this case, it is our assessment that we cannot meet our legal burden and we do not believe that it would be in the interest of justice to proceed,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a statement.
Taylor and his attorneys argued that he couldn’t have committed the murders because, at the time, he was in the 23rd District Station lockup on a disorderly conduct charge from 6:55 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 16, 1992 — the day Haugabook and Lassiter were murdered, records show. The crime took place at 8:43 p.m.
At the time of Taylor’s 1995 trial, prosecutors claimed that the police lockup records were inaccurate and that the officers were mistaken about Taylor’s presence there.
Patrick’s attorneys argued that their client’s confession can’t be legitimate, in part, because he also implicates Taylor in the slayings.
“Deon and his family are thrilled beyond belief,” his attorney, Stuart Chanen, said.
“This is 21 years coming. From the moment the state knew Daniel Taylor was in the lockup [when the killings occurred], which they knew in 1992, every aspect of this prosecution was outrageous.”
Patrick got the news around 11 a.m., but freedom was delayed due to a drive made longer by weather. Picking him up were Chanen and co-attorney Nicole Auerach; Patrick’s son and his son’s girlfriend, and his former co-defendant, Taylor.
“All my life I’ve been teaching my son to pick his friends wisely, and it’s hard to tell your son we all fit the description,” said Patrick.
“They don’t care how much evidence they fabricate and who does what. There’s actually no accountability for it, and I feel it’s going to continue to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot more guys in there that shouldn’t be there. It didn’t start with us, and it doesn’t stop with us, and I want to come back and help others.”