CHICAGO (CN) - Suburban Chicago police tortured a man into confessing to two murders, of which he was wrongly convicted without any other evidence linking him to the crimes, the man claims in court.
James Edwards sued the City of Waukegan, police Officers Michael Quinn, Mark Tkadletz and Artis Yancey, and the Estate of Louis Marquez in Federal Court.
Waukegan police arrested Edwards on Jan. 4, 1996, on suspicion of armed robbery. After 26 hours of interrogation and torture, he confessed to murdering Sylvia Greenbaum in Cleveland, Ohio and Fred Reckling in Waukegan, he says in the complaint.
"Defendants Quinn, Tkadletz, Yancey and Officer Marquez conspired to frame Edwards by physically and psychologically torturing him to give confessions to crimes he did not commit," the complaint states.
It continues: "At approximately 7:55 p.m. on January 4, 1996, defendants Quinn and Tkadletz took Edwards to an isolated area of the Waukegan police station where construction was taking place. Upon information and belief this area was formerly the juvenile section of the station, which was undergoing renovation at the time Edwards was arrested. The area was filled with dusty, old furniture, and was completely separated from the rest of the police department."
The officers called police in other cities where Edwards used to live an asked if there were unsolved murders when he lived there, and learned details of Greenbaum's murder, Edwards says in the complaint.
"Defendants Quinn and Tkadletz accused Edwards of murdering Sylvia Greenbaum. Edwards denied the accusations. In response to the denials, defendants Quinn and Tkadletz picked Edwards up by his neck, lifted him off his feet and slammed him against the wall," the complaint states.
"When Edwards persisted in denying their accusations, defendants Quinn and Tkadletz grabbed Edwards' jaw with the web of their hands between the thumb and index finger and squeezed, applying the maximum amount of pressure possible. Defendants Quinn and Tkadletz further pressed Edwards' temples with their hands causing tremendous physical pain. The physical torture lasted for many hours."
When Edwards asked for an attorney, "Defendants Quinn and Tkadletz responded by grabbing their crotches and saying, 'Here is your attorney,'" the complaint states.
"Fearing for his life and desperate to stop the physical beatings, Edwards agreed to sign a confession to the Greenbaum murder," according to the complaint.
But that wasn't the end of it, Edwards says.
Quinn and Tkadletz also accused him of murdering Reckling, and "threatened to murder Edwards and make it look like a suicide. The defendants told Edwards that if he was found hanging in his cell, 'No one would give a damn' and that no one would investigate because of his criminal record," according to the complaint.
Under coercion, Edwards signed a second confession to murder, though he says "no physical evidence has ever implicated Edwards in the murder of Fred Reckling. None of the forty-one prints recovered from the scene matched him. Edwards' statement was contradicted by the physical evidence at the scene."
His confession's account of the murder, the murder weapon, how much money he stole from Reckling, and a witness's description of the man driving Reckling's car as a white man - Edwards is black - all contradicted his false confession, Edwards says.
Bloodstains in the car did not match either Reckling or Edward's DNA, according to the complaint.
In addition, "the statement describes Edwards leaving the car from Warner Street and taking a cab seventeen miles to Fluky's Bar at 86th and Cottage Grove to get drugs. This claim was completely refuted by the fact that Fluky's Bar closed ten years prior to the night of the incident, and the area around 86th and Cottage Grove had been voted dry four years prior to the Reckling murder. This single false fact alone undermines the veracity of the confession," the complaint states.
Edwards claims his attorney did not allow him to testify at a hearing to suppress the confessions. He was convicted of both murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2011, six years after filing a motion for forensic testing, "a profile obtained from the bloodstains in the victim's vehicle excluded Edwards and matched a profile in the CODIS database. Upon information and belief, the CODIS [Combined DNA Index System] match is of an individual who was arrested just weeks after the Reckling homicide in connection with armed robberies in Wilmette, Illinois, and Evanston, Illinois, and was subsequently sentenced to 30 years incarceration for these crimes," the complaint states.
Edwards' conviction for Reckling's murder was vacated in May 2012. His attorney told the Chicago Tribune that he plans to seek a new trial in the Greenbaum murder.
Edwards is serving a 60-year sentence for an unrelated armed robbery.
He seeks punitive damages for violation of due process, coerced confession, failure to intervene, conspiracy, emotional distress, and malicious prosecution.
He is represented by Kathleen Zellner of Downers Grove.
Waukegan, pop. 91,000, is a far north suburb of Chicago, not far from the Wisconsin line.