Omar Saunders was one of four African American teenagers convicted of the October 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of 23-year-old Rush Medical College student Lori Roscetti in Chicago. The men allegedly jumped into Roscetti’s car as she drove home late at night, took her to a secluded location, raped, robbed and beat her to death.
Saunders, 18, Marcellius Bradford,
17, Calvin Ollins
, 14, and Larry Ollins
, 16, were arrested in January and February, 1987. Police stated that Bradford and Calvin Ollins confessed, saying they ambushed Roscetti at random to get bus fare for Calvin Ollins to return home to the Cabrini-Green housing development. The false confessions were corroborated by the false testimony of Chicago police crime laboratory analyst Pamela Fish, who claimed that semen found on the victim’s body and undergarments could have belonged to three of the four defendants. Later examination of her notes by a DNA expert showed that none of the four men’s blood types matched the crime scene samples. The notes were never disclosed to the defense lawyers.
The Ollins cousins and Omar Saunders were tried as adults before a jury and sentenced to life in prison. Bradford received a sentence of only 12 years in exchange for testifying against the other three defendants.
Bradford was released in 1998 after serving six years. After DNA testing exonerated the Ollins cousins and Omar Saunders in 2001 and Bradford in 2002, a telephone tip led to the arrest of the actual culprits, Duane Roach, 46, and Eddie Harris, 38, who pleaded guilty in exchange for 75-year sentences. The four innocent men filed civil rights suits against the police. Saunders’s claim was settled for $4 million in 2006.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions