MAN WALKS FREE AF­TER 29 YEARS

Judge tosses mur­der con­vic­tion of South Sider who says he was beaten into sign­ing false confession in 1988 ar­son case

Chicago Sun-Times - - CITYBEAT - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT Staff Re­porter Email: mar­men­trout@suntimes.com Twit­ter: @mitchtrout

A 66- year- old South Side man took his first steps of free­dom in nearly three decades on Tues­day night, af­ter a judge tossed his mur­der con­vic­tion stem­ming from a 1988 ar­son case, and Cook County prose­cu­tors de­clined to press the case fur­ther.

“I just want to be around my fam­ily and en­joy a good meal. Hope­fully sleep in a real bed,” Arthur Brown told re­porters out­side the Cook County Jail on Tues­day evening.

Brown was 37 when he was ar­rested hours af­ter a May 1988 fire at a video store near 63rd Street and King Drive, which spread to a res­tau­rant next door, killing two peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Brown, who worked main­te­nance jobs at the store, has said that Chicago Po­lice de­tec­tives beat him into sign­ing a false confession that he helped the store’s owner burn the store down for in­sur­ance money. He was first con­victed in 1988.

A judge granted a sec­ond trial 10 years later when an­other man — serv­ing a life sen­tence for nu­mer­ous armed rob­beries — tes­ti­fied that he burned the store down in re­tal­i­a­tion for a debt he said Brown owed to him. Nonethe­less, a jury con­victed Brown again in 2008.

In the sec­ond trial, Cook County prose­cu­tors main­tained that Brown told po­lice where to find the gas can that was used in the ar­son — a point con­tra­dicted in de­tec­tives’ tes­ti­mony dur­ing the first trial.

Cit­ing the gas can dis­crep­ancy, aswell as al­ibi wit­nesses for Brown that weren’t chased down by his pub­lic de­fend­ers, Judge Joseph Claps granted Brown an­other new trial this Oc­to­ber.

“Af­ter the case was brought to the at­ten­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive staff, the Cook County state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice de­ter­mined there were sig­nif­i­cant ev­i­den­tiary is­sues that raised deep con­cerns about the fair­ness of Mr. Brown’s con­vic­tion,” a spokesman for the of­fice said, adding that charges were dropped “in the in­ter­est of jus­tice.”

Brown’s at­tor­ney, Ron­ald Safer, said the case marked a “cul­ture change” for the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

“I think [ Cook County State’s At­tor­ney] Kim Foxx and her staff were in­ter­ested in serv­ing jus­tice rather than cling­ing to a wrong­ful con­vic­tion,” Safer said. “Pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions have clung to wrong­ful con­vic­tions in the face of di­rect ev­i­dence.”

“I JUST WANT TO BE AROUND MY FAM­ILY AND EN­JOY A GOOD MEAL. HOPE­FULLY SLEEP IN A REAL BED.” ARTHUR BROWN

Arthur Brown

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