Claiming a conspiracy, man convicted in 1998 South Side murder asks judge to toss out conviction

Attorneys for Marcus Wiggins say he was convicted of the 1998 murder of Theopolis Teague on the South Side because three detectives — Kenneth Boudreau, James O’Brien and Sgt. Fred Bonke, who were trained and supervised by disgraced former CPD Cmdr. Jon Burge — took part in a years-long vendetta to frame him.

SHARE Claiming a conspiracy, man convicted in 1998 South Side murder asks judge to toss out conviction
Marcus Wiggins.

Marcus Wiggins’ Illinois Department of Corrections photo

Illinois Department of Corrections

A man who spent more than two decades behind bars after he was found guilty of murder is asking a Cook County judge to throw out his conviction, alleging that several Chicago police officers formed a criminal conspiracy to send him to prison.

Attorneys for Marcus Wiggins say he was convicted of the 1998 murder of Theopolis Teague on the South Side because three detectives — Kenneth Boudreau, James O’Brien and Sgt. Fred Bonke, who were trained and supervised by disgraced former CPD Cmdr. Jon Burge —took part in a years-long vendetta to frame him.

Additionally, three witnesses for the prosecution all recanted their testimony, saying their initial statements were driven by fear of retaliation by the CPD.

“The newly discovered evidence proves that Marcus Wiggins did not kill Theopolis Teague: he is actually innocent,” Higgins’ attorneys wrote in the petition.

“Make no mistake about it, the officers involved in his conviction for the Theopolis Teague murder formed a criminal conspiracy to send Marcus to prison,” the attorneys added. “They stopped at nothing, arresting Wiggins within three hours of the crime, conducted no investigation, disregarded his alibis and threatened and beat witnesses, all of whom have now recanted, until they accused him of murdering Teague.”

The first hearing on the petition is scheduled for next month.

One of the attorneys representing Higgins, New York-based Jason Bonus, said if the post-conviction petition succeeds, Higgins would pursue a certificate of innocence. A certificate of innocence would open the door to civil litigation.

Bonus, who’s representing Wiggins with attorney Jarrett Adams, who himself was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly a decade, added he hasn’t yet discussed the petition with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. A representative for the prosecutors’ office could not be reached for comment.

Wiggins’ attorneys maintain the conspiracy to prosecute him for Teague’s death was born in 1991, when police arrested him in connection with the murder of a 16-year-old boy. Wiggins was 13 at the time, and O’Brien, Boudreau and Bonke were involved in that investigation as well.

A Cook County judge threw out Wiggins’ confession, and the case was dismissed.

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Marcus Wiggins, right, photographed with his former attorney Flint Taylor at a 1993 press conference, announcing Higgins’ lawsuit against the city.

Sun-Times file

Wiggins sued the city, saying Burge and his detectives tortured him into confessing by using electrical shocks. The lawsuit was settled for $95,000.

Bonus said police initially considered Wiggins a suspect in the 1994 killing of a 10-year-old boy, but Wiggins, who Bonus said was in Wisconsin at the time of the boy’s death, wasn’t charged.

After he was convicted in Teague’s death in 1999, Wiggins, acting as his own lawyer, filed a post-conviction request to overturn his conviction. But the federal appeals court in Chicago ruled against him, citing the three witnesses who identified Wiggins as the shooter and calling the evidence “overwhelming.”

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Marcus Wiggins’ mother, Carolyn Johnson, holds a photo of her son during a 2008 rally in Federal Plaza to support victims of police torture.

Sun-Times file

Wiggins was paroled in October 2020 and no longer lives in Chicago, Bonus said. His family has been very supportive since his release, but his re-introduction into society has brought more than a few challenges.

“He’s OK. He’s trying to get a job. He’s working on getting his driver’s license,” Bonus said. “He’s trying, you know, to reintegrate, but it’s difficult. He’s a murderer. By all intents and purposes for society, he’s still convicted.”

Burge, who died in 2018, was accused of overseeing the torture of suspects to obtain confessions to violent crimes on the South Side in the 1970s and 1980s. Fired in 1993, he was never criminally charged until being accused of and later convicted of perjury in federal court in 2010 for lying about the torture allegations. He was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

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