Another Chicago victim of police brutality who sat in prison for 26 years for a murder he never committed was released this week.
Patrick Prince was convicted of a 1991 homicide based solely on the confession coerced by police detective Kriston Kato. The confession was the only evidence offered at trial implicating Prince, who has maintained his innocence for 26 years, according to the Exoneration Project which helped handle his case and subsequent release.
David Owens, Prince’s attorney who works with the Exoneration Project, said Kato struck Prince across the chest and face, pushing his head into a wall and excessively tightened handcuffs on his wrists, among other acts.
Owens told Chicago News that Kato was a particular kind of brutal cop.
Kato’s parters in 1991 were named Vucko and Summerville. Summerville was later convicted of sexual assault, and both of them have been involved in other cases where convictions were overturned in the courts.
“One distinct thing about Kato is that he would often claim that people were not even under arrest while staying at Area 4 overnight, and sometimes for days,” Owens said in an email. “Instead, he would claim they were there voluntarily to assist in the investigation; that they were not even interrogated; that they were not handcuffed; and that they could have left. This is of course preposterous, especially for cases like Prince.”
Prince’s release comes on the heels of a set of high-profile wrongful conviction cases where other men who sat behind bars for crimes they never committed were released recently.
Prince was convicted at the height of Police Commander Jon Burge’s house of horrors era when he and a slew of detectives were torturing African American males on the South Side.
After obtaining a new trial based on new evidence of innocence in late April, prosecutors dismissed the charges again Prince who is 46 years old.
According to the Exoneration Project, scores of people have claimed that police detective Kato beat or coerced many to obtain confessions.
“Many of these individuals were either never charged, acquitted, or had their convictions overturned in the Courts,” the Project stated in a press release.
Kato said at the hearing he would solve crimes “by any means necessary” – including force, deceit, and coercion to get confessions, the Project stated.
The judge wrote that the new evidence presented in the Prince case “seriously calls into question the vitality and fidelity” of Prince’s conviction along with newly discovered evidence, the Project stated.
“This is a case that arose during the times, thinking, sentiments, customs and practices of the 1990s,” the judge stated, according to the release.
The judge noted that Prince was 19 years old and that there were no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting that testified at trial, and no physical evidence or forensic evidence to connect him to the crime.
“The only evidence against the Petitioner was his confession,” the judge said, according to the Project. “Allegations and findings of past misconduct by police during questioning of suspects are now at an unprecedented high and we now better understand the psychology of false confessions.”
“As a result of the judge’s ruling, the State’s Attorney’s Office doesn’t believe we have sufficient evidence to retry the case,” the State’s Attorney’s office told Chicago News.
Prince’s attorney said he got involved in the case by responding to a letter he wrote to the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. The law students at the clinic evaluated his case and voted to take it. They worked on the case for the past three and a half years, Owens said.
“We hope that this will teach these law students the importance of doing pro bono work in the future, as well as provide them with opportunities for real, substantive experience,” Owens said.
By Jim Vail