Ex-Inmate Sues Chicago Police Over Murder Conviction Claiming They Rigged Evidence

Norman McIntosh spent more than 15 years in prison for a 2001 murder based on the testimony of three people who claimed they saw him fire the fatal shots from a gray Oldsmobile.

But the case unraveled last year after all three eyewitnesses — two of whom were 12 years old at the time — recanted their testimony, saying Chicago police detectives had pressured them into identifying McIntosh as the shooter.

What’s more, a lawyer representing McIntosh in his quest for a new trial uncovered key evidence showing McIntosh’s car was impounded at the time of the shooting and that a fingerprint taken from the scene matched not McIntosh but a known gang member who fit the witnesses’ description of the killer.

Now, nearly a year after his conviction and 45-year sentence were overturned, McIntosh has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the police conspired to frame him for the murder by rigging lineups and falsifying police reports.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, names the city and 15 police detectives and officers involved in the investigation, including several who have faced other lawsuits alleging similar misconduct.

The suit alleges a wide range of problems that have long plagued the Police Department — including the keeping of “street files” on suspects, the lack of quality training and supervision, and a dysfunctional disciplinary system that allows problem officers to remain on the street.

“Tragically, Norman’s case brings together so many of the systemic failures in the CPD that have been part of the recent public debate,” said McIntosh’s lead attorney, Anand Swaminathan of the Loevy and Loevy law firm. “These broad cultural problems serve to induce rather than deter misconduct, and they are what make Norman’s nightmare possible.”

A city Law Department spokesman said he had not received the lawsuit and could not comment on the allegations.

McIntosh was convicted in the November 2001 gang-related shooting of Devon Hobson, 21, and wounding of Hobson’s older brother, James, as they walked with two of their younger cousins in the West Englewood neighborhood.

The victims told the police they were shot by a man whom they had robbed at gunpoint a short time earlier of cash and items from his car, including several compact discs.

As he drove off in his gray, four-door Oldsmobile, the gunman shouted that he was a gang member and would come back to kill them, according to court records.

Later that day, the same car pulled up to the group on 60th Street and the driver opened fire, wounding James Hobson in the chest, court records show. As Devon Hobson tried to crawl to safety, the driver backed up the car, reached out of the window and shot him in the back of the head, according to court records.

McIntosh was arrested and charged in January 2002. He was convicted the next year in a bench trial by Judge Evelyn Clay after all three survivors testified that McIntosh was the gunman.

It wasn’t until a decade later that the case began to unravel when McIntosh’s lawyer, Jennifer Blagg, tracked down the witnesses, who told her they’d been pressured by detectives to identify McIntosh as the gunman.

In a sworn statement, James Hobson said police told him after he was released from the hospital that they had caught the killer and wanted him to identify the man at the police station.

“They showed me a picture of Norman and said, ‘This is the guy,'” Hobson said in a statement that was filed as part of McIntosh’s petition for a new trial. “I knew (the shooter) wasn’t Norman because the guy who did it was taller and looked older.”

Hobson said he made the identification only after detectives threatened to pin the murder on him because the robbery of a gang rival he’d committed had led to the killing.

Hobson’s cousin, Darius Thompson, said in his own recantation that police showed him McIntosh’s photo, told him the man was the killer and asked him to pick McIntosh out of a lineup. Thompson said he was standing in the station when Hobson came out of the lineup room, walked past him and said, “Dude got on red,” court records show.

“When I went into the room, the dude in the red shirt was the same dude that the police had pointed out to me and had been telling me about,” Thompson said in his sworn statement. “I picked him out of the lineup because both the police and James said it was him.”

The reinvestigation also led to two other bombshells. First, Blagg obtained records from the city showing McIntosh’s Oldsmobile had been towed away and impounded by the city in September 2001 — two months before the shooting — after he’d abandoned it in an alley with no license plates.

Also, a fingerprint found on one of the compact discs the victims had stolen from the gunman matched a felon who lived in the neighborhood and drove a similar car, court records show. The owner of that Oldsmobile had the car salvaged for scrap shortly after the shooting.

Blagg was in the midst of trying to win McIntosh a new trial in August 2015 when she was contacted by attorney Candace Gorman, who had found McIntosh’s street file among hundreds of other old murder cases in filing cabinets at the detective headquarters at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue.

Gorman was combing through the files as part of a federal lawsuit alleging police routinely used street files to bury information about homicide investigations that could have helped defense attorneys prepare for trial. That lawsuit ended last year with a whopping $22 million jury award.

According to McIntosh’s suit, his street file contained “dozens of pages of police investigative material withheld from (McIntosh’s) criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors.”

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped the case in October 2016, although a spokeswoman at the time said the street file did not factor into the decision.

In dismissing the case, Judge Clay, who had convicted McIntosh in a bench trial in 2003, apologized to McIntosh’s family, saying “an injustice has been corrected.”

A different judge, however, recently denied McIntosh’s petition for a certificate of innocence, blocking him from recouping up to $200,000 from the state for his wrongful imprisonment.

In her 12-page opinion in April, Cook County Circuit Judge Ursula Walowski wrote that the three witnesses’ recantations were unreliable and that the fingerprint evidence pointing to a different suspect was “not persuasive.”

McIntosh is appealing that ruling.

Since his release, McIntosh has reconnected with his family, including his son, Hassan, who was born eight months after his January 2002 arrest and previously knew his father only through prison visits.

McIntosh’s own father, meanwhile, was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2015 and had been too sick to make the trip to prison. He died just three weeks after McIntosh’s release.

“It seemed like that was what he was waiting for, to see me out free,” McIntosh said in a telephone interview this week. “Once I came home, he really just let go.”

Meanwhile, McIntosh has struggled to find steady work. Jobs with UPS and Amazon both fell through after his murder conviction appeared in background checks, he said. Recently he’s been working a temp job unloading sacks of grain from railroad cars.

“I didn’t expect to be struggling like I am,” McIntosh said.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com