CHICAGO — Two McLean County men are among the entries in a newly released national database of more than 900 men and women who were exonerated since 1989 after being convicted of crimes they did not commit.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a searchable resource organized by Rob Warden of the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago and Samuel H. Gross of the University of Michigan Law School.
McLean County exoneration stories included in the database stem from the 2008 release of Alan Beaman after a dozen years in prison on murder charges in the death of Illinois State University student Jennifer Lockmiller and the 2005 exoneration of Corey Eason on sex offender registration charges.
As extensive as the database is, Gross and Warden believe hundreds of other exonerations exist.
“It’s clear that the exonerations we know about are the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of men and women who are falsely convicted are never exonerated. They serve their time or die in prison,” said Gross.
Shortcomings in case
In Beaman’s case, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction based on a ruling that identified shortcomings in the state’s case, including the fact that the jury was not told about another viable suspect who was in the Twin Cities when Lockmiller was slain.
Beaman was at home in Rockfold just hours before police believe Lockmiller was killed Aug. 23, 1993. Much of the state’s case hinged on a theory that he drove the 130 miles to the victim’s apartment at a high rate of speed, committed the crime and returned home mid-afternoon before his mother.
Beaman is working on several fronts to clear his name. He has pending certificate of innocence and clemency petitions with the state and a lawsuit filed in federal court against police officers and former prosecutors involved in his case. A July hearing is scheduled to discuss DNA test results.
Eason challenged his multiple arrests in 2005 for failing to register as a sex offender. The Bloomington man was listed on a state sex offender website — a mistake that should not have happened— based on 1995 conviction on a sex offense when he was a juvenile in Livingston County. The state did not start requiring minors to register their address with police until 1999.
Illinois is among the top 10 states for exonerations, with 103 cases where defendants were cleared of charges.
There are several reasons Illinois has logged so many exonerations, said Warden, noting that the center he directs at Northwestern University has uncovered 48 of those cases since it opened in 1998. False confessions, mistaken identity and the discovery of new evidence play a part in clearing the defendants. Fewer than one-third of the men and women were cleared by DNA results, said Warden.
The National Registry of Exonerations contains the names of more than 900 men and women who were exonerated since 1989 after being convicted of crimes they did not commit. They include:
- 58 for drug, tax, white collar and other non-violent crimes
- 39 in federal cases
- 102 for child sex abuse convictions
- 129 defendants who were convicted of crimes that never happened
- 135 defendants who confessed to crimes they didn’t commit
- 35 innocent defendants who pleaded guilty
SOURCE: National Registry of Exonerations