On September 1, 1990, Thomas Peters and James Coleman were shot during a crap game outside a liquor store on the Chicago’s west side at about 1:30 a.m. They were taken to a hospital, where Peters died and Coleman was treated and released for a gunshot wound in the back.
Lee A. Day, 38, and a co-defendant, George Garrett, 25, were arrested eight days later after Darrell Gurley, a nephew of Peters and a witness to the crime, told police they were the shooters. Day and Garrett were tried together before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas F. Dwyer. Garrett was tried by a jury, but Day chose a bench trial. On November 12, 1992, both were found guilty and sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 60 years for murder and 25 years for attempted murder. Both convictions were affirmed and Day’s petition for post-conviction relief was denied without a hearing.
On October 10, 2001, the Illinois Appellate Court granted Day a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Day’s lawyer, Gay-Lloyd Lott, had failed to present “numerous” witnesses — both eyewitnesses and alibi witnesses — who could have cleared Day. Day’s girlfriend, Renita Hudson, and his friend, Edward Cooper, both offered to testify to support Day’s alibi that he had been at home all night and only opened the door to let in Cooper, who was visiting. In addition, Adonis Hargrove, who was present at the scene of the crime, wanted to testify that Day was not one of the shooters. Moreover, Lott, who after the trial became a Cook County Circuit Court judge, had failed to effectively cross examine the surviving victim, Coleman, who had told prosecutors before the trial that Day was not involved.
On May 8, 2002, the prosecution dismissed all charges against Day. In September 2010, Judge Paul Biebel, Jr., presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court, granted Day a certificate of innocence, qualifying him for compensation through the Illinois Court of Claims.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions