An Illinois appeals court has brought Bennie Starks one step closer to being fully exonerated for a 1986 battery charge by rejecting the Lake County prosecutor’s request for rehearing in his appeal. Earlier this summer, the court remanded Stark’s case back to the trial court to determine whether to grant a new trial on a remaining battery charge after the prosecution dismissed a rape charge stemming from the same incident because of DNA evidence proving his innocence. The prosecution could continue to delay justice for Starks by appealing the decision to the state’s high court.
One of Starks’ lawyers, Ronald Safer, said he could not imagine the Supreme Court taking up the matter and allowing prosecutors to try to preserve a conviction for a crime tied to a case that already had collapsed under the weight of DNA evidence.
Prosecutors “have persisted in avoiding the unavoidable, which is acknowledging that Bennie is innocent of any crime, as the DNA proves,” Safer said. “But they are going to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line.”
According to the Tribune, Starks’ is one of four cases in which Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller insisted on a man’s guilt even after DNA pointed to innocence. Bennie Starks is also represented by the Innocence Project, local attorneys Jed Stone, John Curnyn and Lauren Kaeseberg, a former Cardozo clinic student, and by Associate Brooke Schaefer at Schiff Harden LLP.
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calling on Michael Waller for Bennie Starks’ full exoneration