08/22/2011 09:42 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2011

Innocent, But Forced to Confess -- To Murder

In October 1992, five Black teenagers (known as the Dixmoor Five) were arrested in Cook County, IL for the brutal sexual assault and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews. Two-and-a-half years later, five other Black teenagers from Cook County (known as the Englewood Five) were arrested for the sexual assault and murder by strangulation of a 30-year-old woman named Nina Glover.  

These murders were tragic, horrific acts of violence with total disregard for human life -- and those responsible were never brought to trial. The teenagers who were arrested, some whom have now been imprisoned for nearly 20 years, were forced to confess to murders they did not commit. Recent DNA testing has proven the innocence of all of the men and even linked the crimes to the real killers. Despite this overwhelming evidence the state of Illinois refuses to recognize their innocence.

The teenagers were incarcerated as a result of confessions we now know were forced by police. Eight of the 10 teenagers confessed to police during intense and coercive interrogations, and six of the now grown men are still in custody.
Coerced confessions play a part in almost a quarter of all wrongful convictions nationwide. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that teenagers are particularly susceptible to falsely incriminating themselves during questioning from police and should not be subjected to harsh interrogation tactics as they are less likely to know their rights and the consequences to signing documents, like their own confessions.
At ColorOfChange, we recently launched a campaign demanding that Illinois state officials immediately agree to overturn the convictions of these innocent, now-grown men. This kind of practice should have no place in law enforcement. However, every day, many law enforcement officials treat Black youth as criminals, denying them their right to due process and basic dignity. The consequences of these practices are life-threatening. Coercive interrogation tactics must come to an end, as this kind of practice compromises the entire public's safety.  
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has an opportunity to do the right thing and agree to overturn these wrongful convictions. Please add your name and join us in our effort to convince her. Ensuring the release of these men wouldn't just help correct a gross injustice, but it would also send a message to law enforcement that they can't get away with forcing teenagers to confess to crimes they didn't commit, which helps us end forced confessions.

To view the email we sent to members, click here:

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