A contentious lawsuit filed by a man convicted of a 1992 double murder he says he didn’t commit is set for trial Monday in federal court.
Deon Patrick has sued the city, seven Chicago police officers and two Cook County prosecutors over his conviction for the slayings of Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook. He spent two decades in prison before Cook County prosecutors dismissed the murder charges against him in 2014.
Patrick claims authorities also railroaded six of his seven co-defendants in the criminal case. They ranged in age from 15 to 22 at the time. Patrick was 20.
The lawsuit is set for trial in front of U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman, who wrote in October that “the truly undisputed facts” of the case “are relatively few.” While the officers and prosecutors insist the case “is nothing but straightforward police work that led to the arrest and conviction of eight murderers,” Patrick sees a series of “carefully fabricated lies,” according to the judge.
“There are really two stories to tell,” Guzman wrote.
The defendants in the federal lawsuit include Joseph Magats, the chief of the criminal prosecutions bureau at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Representatives of the city and the state’s attorney’s office declined to comment ahead of the trial. Patrick’s attorney, Stuart Chanen of the Valorem Law Group, simply said, “we’re looking forward to trying the case.”
Patrick’s legal team filed an emergency motion for sanctions Sunday afternoon, claiming the state’s attorney’s office withheld key documents until the eve of trial.
When he announced his lawsuit in May 2014, Patrick acknowledged he was “no angel” at the time of his arrest. He said he was a member of the Vice Lords gang and had been arrested about 20 times. But he has long argued he was innocent of the murders.
Lassiter and Haugabook were shot and killed in Lassiter’s Uptown apartment on Nov. 16, 1992. Weeks later, police claim they picked up three people for drug possession, and two of them voluntarily implicated themselves, along with Patrick and others, in the double murder. Patrick was arrested the same day, and a witness fingered him and three others in a lineup as the people she saw leaving the area around Lassiter’s apartment the night of the murders, according to police.
That’s when authorities said Patrick first confessed.
But Guzman noted the circumstances surrounding the confessions are “hotly disputed.” Patrick claims the witness did not actually identify him in the lineup. He also said he was handcuffed to a ring on the wall in the interrogation room before an officer kicked the chair underneath the ring away so Patrick couldn’t sit down.
“After standing for hours, Mr. Patrick was left with no choice but to sit in a position on the floor that caused great pain and discomfort as a result of the need to outstretch his arm, still handcuffed to the wall,” Patrick’s attorneys wrote in their complaint.
Patrick said he was handcuffed to that wall “for the vast majority of the 28 hours that he was interrogated.” Ultimately, his lawyers claim his will was broken, “and he agreed to sign the handwritten confession” prepared by Magats.
Patrick’s attorneys also argue the murders were only solved after two detectives ordered officers to “clear this case by the time we come back from our days off,” records show. The authorities allegedly used sleep deprivation and starvation to coerce confessions, among other tactics.
One of Patrick’s alleged accomplices, Daniel Taylor, also confessed and implicated Patrick. But Taylor also told detectives he was in a police lock-up the night of the murders. A Cook County judge dismissed charges against Taylor in 2013, six months before Patrick’s charges were dismissed.
Taylor has also filed a federal lawsuit, which is still pending.