In a low-key but dramatic court hearing Tuesday morning, a judge vacated an Aurora man’s convictions for murder and attempted murder and set him free after almost 12 years behind bars.
Jonathan Moore, now 30, had been imprisoned in the murder of Shawn Miller, 20, of Montgomery, and the attempted murder of a second man in a shooting in front of a coin laundry on Lincoln Avenue in Aurora on Aug. 24, 2000.
During his trial, two eyewitnesses identified Moore as the shooter, and he was later sentenced to a total of 80 years in prison.
Family members said while he always maintained his innocence, Moore was resigned to dying in prison.
But according to court documents, two Aurora police officers in April 2011 received information from a confidential informant that someone else had committed the crimes. Aurora investigators John Munn and Darryl Moore pursued the new lead and found new witnesses to the murder who had not originally come forward.
According to Moore’s family members, the two officers visited Moore in prison to tell him they believed someone else had committed the shooting and they were going to present that information to prosecutors.
On Tuesday, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon and Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Engerman filed a motion to vacate all of Moore’s convictions. Moore was handcuffed and wearing a black prison jumpsuit when he heard Judge Tim Sheldon approve the request. Moore only nodded his head slightly, while his uncle – seated in the audience – burst into tears.
After changing into a blue suit, white shirt, blue checked tie and brown shoes, Moore walked out of court a free man. He hugged his uncle.
“I’d like to tell you all thank you for working on my case,” he told supporters who had gathered outside the courtroom. “I’d like to tell you all thank you for believing me.”
Sheldon praised the work of Aurora police officers and prosecutors who stepped forward when new information came to light.
“This court is impressed with your professionalism and your sense of justice,” Sheldon told the prosecutors and the detectives.
The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project became involved in Moore’s case after Aurora police approached them with the new information. Last year, they handled 208 cases – and none were prompted by a call from the police.
“It’s just incredible,” said Larry Golden, director of the project. “The police officers deserve tremendous credit. This is unheard of. I know we haven’t had a case like this.
“This is the kind of county you want to live in,” Golden said.
John Hanlon, legal director for the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, said McMahon “has done a very just thing and that doesn’t always happen.
“We’re so very impressed.”
At this point, no one else has been charged with Miller’s murder. Police said it is an ongoing investigation.