In the early morning hours of November 14, 1994, a 15-year-old girl was raped in the basement stairwell of an apartment building on the south side of Chicago.
The Caucasian victim provided the police with a description from which a computer-generated composite sketch of her attacker was made. She described him as an African American man between 25 and 30 years old, about six feet tall, with a beard. The drawing was circulated in the community, and within a week police received a tip that a man matching the sketch worked at a local meat market. Although Dean Cage, a 28-year-old father of three, had no criminal record and did not closely resemble the man depicted in the sketch, he was arrested. The victim subsequently identified him in a live lineup.
Despite the alibi provided by Cage’s fiancée, who stated that they were together at the time of the crime, Cage was convicted at a bench trial in October 1996 and sentenced to 40 years. After repeated denial of his appeals, in 2005, the Innocence Project accepted his case and sought DNA testing on the rape kit and items of clothing belonging to the victim. The DNA profile discovered on both the clothing and the rape kit did not belong to Cage, and he was released on May 28, 2008, 12 years after his conviction. Searches of the state and federal DNA databases failed to identify the true culprit.
On December 10, 2014, the city of Chicago approved a $7.63 million settement of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Cage.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions