Nearly a decade after a homeless Illinois man was convicted of a 2002 rape, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez will vacate the conviction today.
Carl Chatman was accused of raping a city employee in her office. Despite a lack of evidence linking Chatman to the crime, he was quickly found guilty and in 2004 was sentenced to 30 years behind bars. The case rested on the victim’s identification and a false confession from Chatman, who has mental health issues.
columnist Mary Mitchell reports that it took a jury just half an hour to convict Chatman and the criminal justice system more than a decade to realize his innocence.
“ ‘In reviewing the information and evidence in this case, there is not enough sound evidence to uphold the conviction,’ ” said a spokeswoman for Alvarez’s office on Monday afternoon.
The dismissal of Chatman’s case came as the result of an in-depth reinvestigation by Alvarez’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
Chatman’s attorneys have long argued that alleged victim’s claim about being sexually assaulted by Chatman was untrue and that she was simply seeking monetary compensation.
In 1979, the alleged victim had made a nearly identical claim—that she had been raped in an office building after business hours. The previous claim was made against a Polish immigrant who fled to Poland before he could be tried for the crime.
“In a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief filed in 2007, lawyers with the Office of the State Appellate Defender, as well as the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy argued that the rape victim had a ‘pattern of alleging she was sexually assaulted then filing suits for monetary gain.’ ”
“In both instances, the rape victim hired counsel immediately after making her allegations and filed lawsuits seeking monetary damages against the building owners, the building management companies, the building security providers and the janitorial services, according to the petition.”
When Alvarez created the Conviction Integrity Unit last year, she promised to review cases, such as Chapman’s, that involve confessions by defendants with mental-health issues.
“ ‘Oh my God,’ cried Theresa Chatman, the convicted man’s sister, before breaking down in sobs,” when told about Alvarez’s decision to dismiss the charges against her brother.
“ ‘Do I need to bring him any clothes? What time will he get out because I’m going to show up in a limo,’ she said.”
Chatman, now 58, could be released from Dixon Correctional Center as early as today.