A Cook County special prosecutor Tuesday dropped murder charges against two men who claimed they were beaten by detectives trained by disgraced Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Corey Batchelor and Kevin Bailey were teenagers and close friends when they landed at the Area 2 headquarters in 1989 as suspects in the murder of Lula Mae Woods. There, both men have said for nearly 30 years, they were beaten by detectives who had worked under Burge— who had been transferred to Area 3— and confessed to stabbing Woods.
Tuesday, the two men embraced in Judge Alfredo Maldonado’s courtroom, as the judge announced their convictions were vacated and special prosecutors had dropped the case against them. Batchelor, now 48, had been paroled in 2004, but had worked with lawyers from University of Chicago Law School’s Exoneration Project to see Bailey freed as well. Batchelor, his eyes brimming with tears, whispered to Bailey as Bailey was led from the courtroom.
“I told him ‘aren’t you glad I didn’t give up?'” Batchelor told reporters in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building after the hearing.
Bailey, who served nearly 30 years of an 80-year sentence, was released Tuesday afternoon from Stateville prison.
Special Prosecutor Robert Milan began a review of the case in June, and said a seven month-long review of thousands of pages of court records, police reports, and dozen of interviews, did not yield evidence that could prove the two men’s guilt. However, their deal with Milan bars Bailey and Batchelor from seeking a certificate of innocence, which would potentially entitle the two men to a payout from the state. The two men also can not apply for funds as Burge torture victims, because Burge had transferred out of Area 2 by the time of their interrogation.
Woods, the wife of a retired Chicago Police officer, was found dead inside her South Side garage in June 1992.
The two men were interrogated by Area 2 detectives after Burge already had moved on to work in Area 3, but they maintained they were beaten by detectives until they confessed to Woods’ murder. Batchelor was punched, kicked and slammed against a wall during a 27-hour interrogation that ended with his confessing to the murder. Bailey confessed after 12 hours of questioning and similar abuse. DNA evidence analyzed more recently showed that DNA on a hat found under Woods’ body and a bloody towel at the scene, had not come from either Bailey or Batchelor.
Special Prosecutor Milan’s statements in court made no mention of the abuse allegations, and a Cook County judge had ruled that the DNA evidence alone was not compelling enough to overturn the convictions. Lawyers for the two men said Bailey and Batchelor maintained their innocence and had claimed they were beaten since they were arrested, and still may pursue civil lawsuits over their convictions.
Tuesday, hearing that his record had been cleared and his friend, Bailey, was coming home, was enough for Batchelor.
“To finally just hear those words that I always knew in that same exact building behind us in 1989, that no matter what happens, before I leave this earth, I will leave an innocent man, or at least I will die trying,” he said.
Burge was fired from CPD in 1993, and more than a decade later was sentenced to serve prison time on federal perjury charges for denying allegations of abuse raised in a civil lawsuit.