Two Illinois men, one serving time on a rape charge, the other serving 82 years for his role in a fatal shooting, were released from prison Tuesday after prosecutors dropped the charges against both men.
Carl Chatman and Lathierial Boyd were ordered to be released immediately after deeper investigations into their cases revealed that there was a strong likelihood the men were innocent.
Rape is one of the most heinous crimes a person can commit, and oftentimes these trials come down to a “he said, she said” argument. In the case of Carl Chatman, a homeless man with a history of mental illness, the jury chose to believe the story of the alleged victim, even though there was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime.
Although the victim said Chatman sexually assaulted her, authorities never found any DNA or evidence of sexual assault on the victim, and nobody reported seeing the man in the building where the alleged attack took place. Authorities caught a break in the case when Chatman admitted to committing the crime, but doctors who analyzed the homeless man said he suffered from schizophrenia and had a low IQ, which made him susceptible to providing a false confession.
What’s disturbing about the case is what was later uncovered by a deeper investigation. It was revealed that the rape claim came only weeks after the victim was served an audit by the IRS, and Chatman’s attorney said the victim also had thousands of dollars in casino losses.
“There was no rape. This never happened,” said Russell Ainsworth, who represented Chatman during his appeal. “This was fabricated by a vindictive woman who did this for monetary gain.”
In fact, this wasn’t the first time the woman claimed to be raped by someone who had little means to defend themselves. The woman claimed a janitor raped her in 1979, and the similarities between the alleged assaults are striking. In both cases:
- The victim arrived at work early in order to take care of some extra business.
- She claims a man threatened her with a weapon (in one case, a scissors, in the other, a knife) when she was alone at the office.
- The defendants said they believed the allegations were motivated by money.
- The victim sued for monetary damages after the criminal charges were brought.
In the 1979 claim, the victim was a Polish national who fled the United States before his trial. Before leaving, he penned a note to the judge, strongly asserting his innocence. He claimed he only fled because he could not possibly raise the money that would be required to defend himself in court, and he said he believed the claim was an attempt by the victim to get a quick paycheck.
“If she only made this whole thing up to make some money, she should earn money honestly and not like this,” the janitor’s letter said.
The woman later reached a settlement with the county building commission and a private security firm that was tasked with guarding the building during the first assault. One of the defense attorneys who worked on the case said his team concluded the woman made a false accusation, but they were never able to prove it.
Ainsworth said the second rape charge should have raised many red flags when it was first brought to court.
“It just seemed odd that both rapes were under almost identical circumstances,” he said.
Who Pulled the Trigger?
Lathieral Boyd was sentenced to 82 years in prison in 1990 after a jury ruled he killed one man and injured another over a drug debt. The strongest evidence against Boyd was provided by the wounded man, who initially told police he didn’t know who shot him, but later changed his story and said it was Boyd.
Furthermore, when Boyd was placed in a police lineup, none of the nine witnesses identified Boyd as the shooter. He claimed he was at his sister’s home watching a basketball game at the time of the shooting, and both his sister and a Cook County sheriff’s deputy testified to Boyd’s presence at the home, yet the jury still convicted him.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the decision to vacate the conviction was due in large part to a separate investigation launched by the Conviction Integrity Unit, which works to reverse wrongful convictions.
“Above all else, our work as prosecutors is about seeking justice even if that measure of justice means that we must acknowledge failures of the past,” she said.
Sean Sullivan comments
What troubles me most about the cases is the startling lack of evidence in them. I am at a loss to understand how the cases were brought in the first place. Reasonable doubt is a term everyone knows from television and movies, but I do not think people truly know what it means in the context of a criminal trial. It means if there is any reason or uncertainty as to any fact proving someone is guilty of a crime, then the case should be dismissed. In these cases, there seems to multiple instances of reasonable doubt.
Particularly so in the case of Mr. Boyd. He should have been cleared as a suspect early in the investigation such that his case should never have gone to trial. He had a solid alibi confirmed by credible witnesses, and was never identified by any witness despite participating in multiple lineups. It is awful to think that innocent men can be imprisoned.
Related source: Chicago Tribune