Freed man spent 25 years in prison.
By: Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune: July 25th, 2013
Hours after the Chicago City Council signed off on a $10 million payout to settle his lawsuit, a somber Eric Caine stood in his lawyer’s Near West Side office Wednesday surrounded by relatives of other alleged victims of police misconduct.
Caine didn’t crack a smile. He said the money could never erase the 25 years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit. But he hoped his case brought attention to the plight of other men languishing in prison despite valid claims of police wrongdoing.
“They know they’re innocent, but they have little or no way to prove it, and they struggle to get anybody to hear their cries to help them,” Caine said in a low voice.
Caine’s case was the latest in a series of lawsuit settlements involving disgraced former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and detectives under his command that have brought the tab to nearly $70 million when legal fees are counted.
Caine’s attorney, Jon Loevy, used Wednesday’s news conference to sound a warning that even as cases involving Burge and his men get resolved, there are scores of others involving other Chicago detectives who “made cases regardless of guilt or innocence.”
Loevy said that while the city has been forced to come to terms with Burge’s wrongdoing, the tendency is to resist acknowledging that the problem of police misconduct was systemic.
“There are obviously a small number of police officers where there are great clusters of accusations that improper tactics were used and wrongful convictions occurred,” Loevy said. “The city would have us believe that if we just take care of the Jon Burge cases, the problem will go away. Not so.”
Among the names mentioned Wednesday was Kenneth Boudreau, who worked under Burge and was featured in a 2001 Tribune series that found Boudreau had helped obtain confessions from more than a dozen defendants in murder cases in which the charges later were dismissed or the defendant was acquitted at trial.
The lawyers also mentioned Ray Guevara, a now retired West Side homicide detective who has been accused of beating suspects into confessions, falsely translating statements of Spanish-speaking suspects and threatening witnesses with charges if they did not say what he wanted them to say. In 2009, a federal jury awarded $21 million to Juan Johnson after finding Guevara intimidated and threatened witnesses to get them to testify against Johnson, who spent more than 11 years in prison until he was acquitted in a retrial.
Two inmates, Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez, are vying for a new trial after the main witness in their 1993 murder case recanted and accused Guevara of intimidating him into making a statement. At a hearing this year, Guevara took the stand and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about the alleged frame-up. The case is pending.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Maria Rodriguez stood with tears in her eyes as she held up a photo of her son, Ricardo, who she says was framed by Guevara for murder. After 18 years in prison, her son is still hopeful his claims will be heard, she said.
“All we want is a fair hearing,” she said.
Caine, 47, said he falsely confessed to the 1986 murders of a couple, Vincent and Rafaela Sanchez, after two detectives working for Burge threatened and punched him, rupturing his eardrum, as he sat handcuffed to a chair in a South Side police station.
A judge threw out Caine’s confession in early 2011, and prosecutors dismissed the indictment after determining they could not go forward without the tainted confession as evidence.
Burge is serving a 4½ year sentence on a federal conviction for lying in a lawsuit about his knowledge of police torture.
Caine said Wednesday that he still struggles day to day because of his ordeal, but he always had faith he would be vindicated.
“I’m better today than I was yesterday, I can tell you that.”