A Chicago judge reportedly tossed out the convictions of 15 men on Thursday (Nov. 16), in what many legal officials are calling the “first mass exoneration.” Judge Leroy Martin reportedly threw the cases out over fears that former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and officers under his command, framed each man, NPR reports.
After reviewing the men’s cases, the prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney office stated that they were not confident in holding the men based on the police reports and testimony at hand. Defense attorneys with the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project reportedly filed a petition in Spring 2017, asking for the cases to be overturned.
Watt’s has a dark history of misconduct. In 2013, the former Sgt. was convicted of extorting money from a drug dealer who actually turned out to be an informant for the FBI, according to NPR.
The 15 men who had been serving lengthy sentences in prison, were reportedly released ahead of the Nov. 16, hearing, according to reports. In a statement Thursday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said they have zero tolerance for abuse or unlawful behavior by officers sworn to uphold the law and protect its citizens, NPR reports. They demanded that Watts be condemned for his actions.
Watts has reportedly been involved in nearly 1,000 cases and 500 convictions. Authorities are reportedly looking into several other cases that fell under his leadership.