Rodell Sanders, wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years due to alleged defense attorney and Chicago Heights, IL police misconduct, got his first taste of freedom today following a retrial that ended with a not guilty verdict at 10 PM last night.
Mr. Sanders won his freedom after a 7-year effort by the Exoneration Project, a legal clinic at the University of Chicago, spearheaded by Project attorneys Gayle Horn and Russell Ainsworth, working alongside Steven Greenberg of Greenberg Ltd.
On January 14, 1994, Rodell Sanders was wrongfully incarcerated for the murder of Philip Atkins and attempted murder of a 19-year-old friend of Atkins. The case against him was built solely on the statements of a snitch who admittedly participated in the crimes in question, and an eyewitness whose initial description did not match Sanders’s description. The snitch recanted his statements prior to trial, admitting that he was the actual perpetrator, but Sanders’s trial attorney never presented evidence of this recantation to the jury.
There was no physical evidence linking Sanders to the crime. Rather, the only purported evidence against Mr. Sanders was the purchased testimony of a known snitch and a patently false witness identification. Evidence against Mr. Sanders was procured through manipulation and outright fabrication by members of the City of Chicago Heights’s infamously corrupt police department.
On January 14, 2011, the 17th anniversary of Mr. Sanders’s wrongful incarceration, that conviction was overturned and a retrial ordered.
After a five-day trial, at 10 P.M. last night, a Cook County jury found him not guilty of murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, and armed robbery. After 20 years in prison, at 5:30 this morning, Mr. Sanders arrived at his sister’s home and was surrounded by his children and grandchildren.