After Darryl Fulton spent 23 years behind bars for a rape and murder he didn’t commit, the state of Illinois handed him a check for nearly $170,000 for his troubles.
But his ordeal dragged on a few extra days last week when his Southwest Side Chase Bank branch refused to accept the check — a misunderstanding, according to the bank.
“I think it has something to do with an African-American male coming in with a check like that,” Fulton’s attorney Kathleen Zellner said. “It just seems really beyond any plausible or innocent explanation.”
When Fulton first brought the check to the bank at 79th and Cicero, they turned him away because the name of Zellner’s law firm was printed below his on the “pay to the order of” line. The bank said the attorney would need to sign it, according to Zellner.
When he tried again another day, employees told Fulton and Zellner that the check would have to be deposited into the attorney’s account, Zellner said.
“Guys like him have a hard enough time re-acclimating to society without being given more hurdles to jump,” Zellner said.
A spokesman for Chase said the company apologized.
“There were some irregularities with Mr. Fulton’s check, including a misspelling of his name, however we should have accepted it during his first visit,” a statement from the company read. “We did offer to deposit the check on his return visit and have reached out to him to clear up any confusion. We regret the error and apologize for the inconvenience.”
Zellner eventually deposited the check into a law firm account and wrote a new one to Fulton.
She said Fulton had previously opened an account at the bank since starting a new factory job in the western suburbs after his release from prison last November.
“Most people in his situation are just so happy to be out, so his response wasn’t to be angered,” Zellner said. “He was just perplexed and didn’t know what to do. Once you’ve had so much go off kilter in your life, people in his shoes don’t tend to get really angry.”
The state of Illinois issues such checks to exonerees who are granted certificates of innocence from a judge.
Fulton received his last November along with Nevest Coleman after the men spent 23 years in prison for the brutal 1994 murder of Antwinica Bridgeman. They said they were beaten into confessions by detectives, and DNA evidence unearthed in 2016 linked the crime to a known serial rapist.
Coleman has since returned to his job as part of the White Sox ground crew at Guaranteed Rate Field.