URBANA, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois man who was freed from prison after nearly two decades behind bars for a killing he claims was self-defense has filed a wrongful murder conviction lawsuit against the prosecutors and public defender involved in his murder trial after a witness recanted testimony.
The suit for Terrence Haynes, 42, was filed Thursday in Urbana, the Chicago Tribune reported. His suit accuses two Kankakee County assistant state's attorneys of encouraging an 11-year-old witness Marcus Hammond, a first cousin of one of the prosecutors, to lie about Cezaire Murrell being unarmed when Haynes fatally shot the 18-year-old in 1999.
Hammond was the only eyewitness called by prosecutors, even though three adults at the scene told police that Haynes acted in self-defense after Murrell reached for a gun in his waistband. But none of those adults testified at Haynes' trial, which resulted in his conviction and 45-year prison sentence.
Last year, an Illinois appellate court ruled that there were enough problems with the prosecution's original case to overturn Haynes' conviction and order a new trial.
Prosecutors said in May they were reconsidering whether to retry Haynes after Hammond, now 30, said that he gave false testimony at the urging of previous prosecutors. Jim Rowe, State's Attorney for Kankakee County, declared "not a shred of evidence" from the initial prosecution remained intact and his office dropped the charges against Haynes in June. Haynes will not be retried in court.
"What happened to Terrence Haynes is such a tragedy that could have easily been avoided," Haynes' attorney Andy Hale said. "This man lost almost 20 years of his life."
Rowe — who was not involved in the original trial — would not comment on Haynes' lawsuit, but he reiterated his support for Haynes to get a certificate of innocence from the county's court system. The certificate, which Haynes could receive in the coming weeks, would remove the case from his record and make him eligible for restitution from the state.
"I am not able to comment on pending civil litigation," said Rowe. "I have, however, taken the rarest of actions as a state's attorney by joining in Mr. Haynes' petition for a certificate of innocence (COI), which remains pending. I believe he is entitled to that COI and that is why I joined in the petition."
After the dropped charges, Haynes relocated to Georgia. Haynes has said he wants to help others who were wrongly convicted with earning their freedom.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com