Ruling lets wrongfully convicted man seek $200,000 from state

SHARE Ruling lets wrongfully convicted man seek $200,000 from state
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Mark Maxson and his mother, Almeater Maxson, at his lawyer Elliott Zinger’s office. | Frank Main/Sun-Times

A Cook County judge on Thursday granted a certificate of innocence to Mark Maxson, a 55-year-old man who spent 22 years in prison for a murder that authorities say he didn’t commit.

The certificate will entitle Maxson to seek up to $199,150 in reimbursement from the state Court of Claims for his wrongful conviction. His attorneys can get a maximum of 25 percent of the award.

Under the law, the certificate will also prompt the state to expunge Maxson’s murder conviction.

Cook County Judge Steven Watkins found Maxson was innocent and not freed based on a legal technicality, said his attorneys Elliot Zinger and Larry Dreyfus. They said the Cook County state’s attorney’s office didn’t object.

Maxson might seek to introduce the certificate as evidence in his $54 million wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the city, Zinger said.

Maxson was convicted of the 1992 killing of 6-year-old Lindsey Murdock on the South Side. He was freed late last month after DNA evidence linked another man, Osborne Wade, to the crime.

Maxson claims Chicago Police detectives coerced him into confessing to the slaying. He has asserted his innocence from the beginning, telling the judge at his sentencing that he was framed.

Not everyone whose murder conviction is overturned goes on to obtain a certificate of innocence.

In 2014, for instance, a Cook County judge tossed out Stanley Wrice’s conviction in a 1982 rape after finding he was tortured into confessing. But another judge denied him a certificate of innocence in 2015, saying witness testimony and physical evidence still pointed to Wrice’s guilt.

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