Cook County prosecutors Friday dropped charges against a man who was convicted in a 1995 double gang-related murder that claimed the lives of two teenage girls on the Southwest Side.
Nicholas Morfin, now 45, spent more than two decades in prison for the deadly shooting of Carrie Hovel and Helena Martin, both 13.
The girls were killed after 15-year-old Eric Anderson, the son of a Chicago police officer, fired at a rival gang’s van.
Morfin was accused of helping plan the attack.
Ultimately, Morfin had not proved his innocence, Judge Arthur Hill Jr. said Friday. But the judge added he was vacating Morfin’s conviction and granting him a new trial on the basis prosecutors withheld evidence that could have exonerated Morfin during his initial trial.
“There is probably no more challenging case in this building than this one,” Hill said.
Immediately after Hill issued his ruling, prosecutors announced they would drop all charges.
“It ain’t right,” a woman sobbed in Hill’s courtroom before she was escorted out by an advocate from the state’s attorney’s office’s Victim Witness Assistance Unit.
Morfin will return to the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg for processing before his release, which may not take place until Monday, his attorney James Kogut said.
For now, knowing Morfin would be coming home was enough, his wife said.
“We’ve waited this long; we can wait a couple more days, as long as he’s coming home,” Jennifer Morfin said. “Until I see him walk out those doors, it’s still surreal.”
Two years ago, Matt Sopron, one of Morfin’s co-defendants, was cleared of the double murder and released from prison after it was revealed that several witnesses admitted to lying and recanted their testimonies.
Anderson said he barely knew Sopron and admitted that no one ordered him to target the van the victims were riding in with members of a rival gang, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
In 2017, Anderson had his life sentence for the double murder reduced to a 60-year prison term.
On Friday, Morfin’s mother wondered if her son would have ever been cleared in the case if not for the revelations that surfaced during Sopron’s post-trial hearings.
“Twenty-five years of fighting for his life, and no one would listen to him,” Cynthia Morfin said. “It wasn’t until the Sopron case until we found out the other stuff.”
Another man, Wayne Antusas, is currently serving time for the double murders. Judge Timothy Joyce denied Antusas a new trial last year. Antusas has appealed Joyce’s ruling, court records show.