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Chicago man says confession was coerced

police and city now sued by falsely convicted victim
Man says confession was coerced

CHICAGO, July 16 (UPI) -- A South Side man says police coerced him into confessing to his mother's killing, taking advantage of his mental retardation and mental illness.

Corethian Bell, 26, a paranoid schizophrenic who often slept on the streets, has filed suit accusing detectives in the Chicago Police Department's Calumet District of holding him for 50 hours to obtain the false confession, which resulted in prosecution and a 17-month imprisonment.

Bell was exonerated last January by DNA testing that implicated another man, who was charged in an unrelated sexual assault about five blocks from Bell's mother's home. The blood and semen samples taken from the crime scene were not tested for more than a year after the killing.

"It was a process of psychological coercion and then ultimately the employment of physical tactics against a boy who obviously was extremely vulnerable," said attorney Locke Bowman, who filed the suit on Bell's behalf Monday. "And they had no reason to suspect his involvement."

The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages from the city as well as detectives Michael Cummings, Patrick Durkin, Paul Alfini, Thomas Downes, Richard Lombard and James Fitzmaurice.

The suit alleges Assistant State's Attorney James Navarre's "objective was to secure a confession from Bell without regard to whether Mr. Bell was in fact innocent and despite evidence suggesting Bell's innocence." It claims Navarre rehearsed the confession with Bell and then led him through the statement.

The state's attorney's office said Navarre was just following procedure. Police had no comment.

Bell found his mother, Netta, dead on July 14, 2000, in her apartment and called police. Bell told the dispatcher his mother had been shot. In fact, she had been stabbed to death.

"Bell's case is a shocking example of police abuse," said Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center. "It is unconscionable for the police to take an obviously innocent man, who was grieving and in shock at the brutal murder of his own mother, and then mercilessly interrogate him for 50 hours to force him to confess."

Copyright © 2002 United Press International



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