Two men who have spent the last 23 years in prison are serving time for a rape and murder they could not possibly have committed, according to a new court filing.
Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton were convicted in 1997 of the April 1994 murder and aggravated sexual assault of Antwinica Bridgeman in the South Side Englewood neighborhood, according to court and IDOC records.
The victim had been out celebrating her 20th birthday when she disappeared, and was found weeks later in Coleman’s basement.
Coleman and Fulton were convicted “despite no physical evidence linking them to the crime,” a statement from their attorneys, Russell Ainsworth of The Exoneration Project, and Kathleen Zellner, said.
Coleman, who had worked as a groundskeeper at Comiskey Park for 25 years, had a 2-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son, and “had never been arrested before in his life. He lost both parents while he was in prison,” his attorneys said.
Now 48, he is incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center, while Fulton, now 51, is an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center, according to IDOC records.
In a filing in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday, the attorneys claim “new DNA evidence points to another suspect,” a serial rapist who is not named.
“Recent DNA testing has matched semen on the victim’s underwear and sweatshirt, as well as DNA from underneath the victim’s fingernails, to that of a serial rapist, whose identity is currently undisclosed, and completely excluded Coleman and Fulton,” a statement from the lawyers read.
“Despite the new evidence and an ample history of misconduct by the detectives who conducted the original investigation, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is opposing the release of Coleman and Fulton,” the attorneys said.
However, the state’s attorney’s office released a statement saying the case remains under review.
“Mr. Coleman’s case remains the subject of an intense review and investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit,” that statement read.
“As stated in court today, we believe it is inappropriate to release Mr. Coleman until we have additional information about what role Mr. Coleman played in the rape and murder for which he was convicted. We are awaiting additional DNA results and have asked for an expedited examination from the laboratory. We will continue to approach the investigation of Mr. Coleman’s conviction with urgency, and remain in contact with Mr. Coleman’s counsel as the investigation proceeds.”