24-Year Prison Sentence…for Nothing?
Twenty-four years ago, Ronald Reagan was president, the United States was in the midst of the Cold War, Arnold Schwarzenegger was still the Terminator, and the first Apple Macintosh was sold. For most of the world, things have changed significantly since 1984. But for James Andrews, a 45-year-old Chicago man, the past two and a half decades have meant only one thing: prison.
In 1984, Andrews was convicted of a double murder and robbery and sent to prison, according to the Chicago Tribune. Apparently, the guilty sentence was a no-brainer: police interrogators had two confessions signed by Andrews as evidence.
But recently, a judge has vacated Andrews’ conviction and granted him a new trial, reports show.
This unusual turn of events comes on the tail of an investigation into the circumstances of Andrews’ confessions. According to his criminal lawyer, Andrews was coerced by police into admitting he’d committed the crimes. And a judge finally decided to listen.
Sources say that Andrews was originally taken into police custody to be questioned about a dogfight, a line of inquiry that was abandoned after about an hour and a half at the station. What followed, according to reports, was a series of psychological and physical torture tactics that resulted in Andrews’ confession.
Andrews reportedly claims he was punched, chained to a wall, hit with a heavy flashlight, deprived of food and given electric shocks over a period of 12 to 18 hours during his interrogation. As many other cases have shown, treatment of this kind-and for this duration-often results in false confessions.
Andrews’ was no exception.
Judge Sumner, who is responsible for vacating Andrews’ conviction, has allegedly admitted that there have been multiple complaints of brutality against police chief Burge and his officers, who were responsible for Andrews’ arrest and questioning.
The specific officers who elicited Andrews’ actual “confession,” too, were reportedly known for getting false confessions and using questionable techniques. Sumner said that Andrews’ torture allegations were worth investigating, sources say.
Reports suggest that this decision was compounded by the fact that, besides Andrews’ confession, little evidence existed connecting him to the murder victims or the crimes.
Andrews, after spending 24 years in prison, will now face a new trial. And his criminal defense lawyers have apparently taken special care that the trial will be swift. According to the Tribune, defense attorneys are demanding that Andrews’ case be heard within 120 days. No one seems to have any problem with that.
Until his court date, Andrews is reportedly being held on $300,000 bail.