In Illinois’s largest-ever settlement for alleged police misconduct, Loevy & Loevy attorneys Jon Loevy, Russell Ainsworth, and Tara Thompson were part of a team that won $40 million for the “Dixmoor 5,” five African American men who served a combined 79 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
Illinois’s largest individual award for police misconduct in recent years — $25 million to Thaddeus Jimenez – was also won by Jon Loevy in a federal jury trial in 2012. Loevy was also the lead attorney for the largest individual away in Illinois history, a $28 million jury verdict for Joseph Regalado in 1999.
All of the “Dixmoor 5” were minors when they arrested by police in Dixmoor, IL, a south suburb of Chicago.
A central tenet of the suits against Dixmoor 5 and the Illinois State Police was that officers and prosecutors coerced some of the teenage defendants into falsely confessing through physical abuse and verbal threats.
As the Innocence Project reports, “data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that in the last 25 years, 38% of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 years of age involved false confessions, compared with 11% for adults.”
The Dixmoor 5 would probably never have had a chance at exoneration, let alone the record settlement, had it not been for the efforts of Attorney Tara Thompson, who shares time with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago. As Russell Ainsworth tells it,
For an entire year, she led EP students on a mission to obtain the evidence in their collective cases that would eventually free them. Repeatedly, Dixmoor stated that the evidence in the case was lost, missing, or could not be found.
Most people would have given up at some point… But lawyers and students convinced Judge Simmons to order Dixmoor to allow an inspection of their evidence vault.
Miraculously, Dixmoor suddenly ‘found’ the evidence; testing on that evidence excluded the Dixmoor 5 and incriminated the real perpetrator.
This testing led the way for the Dixmoor Five’s releases, their convictions being overturned, and ultimately the civil suit that led to this settlement.
While the State of Illinois has settled with the Dixmoor 5, negotiations for a possible settlement are still on-going with the Village of Dixmoor.
Co-counsel for the Dixmoor 5 were Peter Neufeld and Alexandra Lampert of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, New York City, Flint Tayor and John Stainthorp of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, Locke Bowman and Alexa Van Brunt of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Chicago; Jon Erickson and Michael Oppenheimer of Erickson & Oppenheimer, Ltd., Chicago; and Stuart Chanen and Henry Turner of the Valorem Law Group, Chicago.