A man wrongfully charged with killing his mother is suing the city of Chicago and five police officers claiming he was coerced--mentally and physically--into confessing.
Attorneys for Corethian Bell, 26, filed the lawsuit Monday and are asking for an unspecified amount of money damages. Bell was held for 17 months in the Cook COunty Jail before a DNA test proved his innocence in the July 200 murder. He was released in January.
The DNA matched that of another man who was later charged with stabbing and sexually assaulting a Chicago woman in December 2000 about five blocks from Bell's mother's home.
"Bell's case is a shocking example of police abuse," said Locke Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center and on of Bell's attorneys. "It in unconscionable for police to take an obviously innocent man, who was grieving and in shock at the brutal murder of his own mother, and then mercilessly interrogate him to confess.
"The police should pay for this outrage."
According to the lawsuit, police interrogated Bell immediately following the murder and purposely lied to him in order to get him to confess. Bell was isolated during the interrogation, subjected to a polygraph, and told details of the murder that Bell later used in his confession.
But Bell's attorneys said police lied about the outcome of the polygraph, telling him that he had failed and then used physical force to get him to sign a confession. The confession was videotaped, but that, too, is being questioned.
"What happened to Mr. Bell during the 50 hours of 'interrogation' before police decided to turn on the video cameras?" said Craig Futterman, an attorney for Bell.
Evidence collected at the murder scene--including blood and semen samples--would be key to absolving Bell. However, that evidence was not tested for nearly a year after the crime.
Once the results were in, charges against Bell were dropped.
"In addition to the obvious cruelty of falsely accusing and incarcerating an innocent man for the murder of his mother, the framing of Mr. Bell allowed the real killer to brutally rape and stab another woman just months after his murder of Mr. Bell's mom," Futterman said. "A simple DNA test may have thus prevented this double travesty.
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said there would be no comment on pending litigation. A spokeswoman for the city said officials had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.
A spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office said the prosecutor assigned to the case followed procedure. He said once prosecutors found out that the DNA did not match, they immediately dropped the charges. They have not since charged anyone in the murder of Netta Bell.
Police accused Corethian Bell after he phoned 911 to tell them he found his mother dead in her South Side home. Police discovered the body in the bathroom, completely naked, seated on the toilet with multiple stab wounds in her face and torso.
Bell, who is mildly retarded and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, met police at the apartment and was then taken to Area 2 police headquarters and questioned.
"The police took advantage of a vulnerable, defenseless person who just lost their mother, in a brutal murder," Bowman said. "that is unacceptable behavior."