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Seneca Adams

Other Chicago 'No Crime' Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
At 8:00 p.m. on September 14, 2004, 20-year-old Seneca Adams was jogging near the apartment complex where he lived in Chicago when he heard men yelling at him to “Get down on the ground!” and “Monkey, get down on the ground! Nigger, get down on the ground!”

Adams turned around and saw Chicago police officers pointing pistols at him. Adams got down to his knees and lay down with his face on the ground. One officer kicked him in the face. He was then handcuffed and told to put his face down on the hood of a squad car. When Adams turned around intending to tell the officer that the hood was too hot, he was punched in the face by an officer wearing weighted gloves.

A number of neighbors gathered, including Adams’s niece. When Adams asked the officer if he was going to beat him up in front of his niece, the officer said, “I don't give a fuck about you or your nigger niece,” and hit him in the face again.

Bleeding from his mouth and eyes, Adams was put inside a police car where the officer punched him repeatedly in the face with a closed fist, grabbed his hair and banged his head against the window, and elbowed him in face. Adams was driven to a secluded area where the officer continued to punch him and bang his head against the window. Seneca bled from his lips, mouth, eyes, eardrum, and nose.

The officers then drove him back to his apartment complex where an officer told him to keep his head down or he would be sprayed with mace. He was left alone, handcuffed for some time and then was driven the back of the Cook County Jail. Eventually, Adams was taken to a hospital where he received medical treatment, including 9 stitches.

Adams’s twin sister, Sicara, and their 18-year-old brother, Tari, who were inside their apartment at the time the incident began, heard the commotion and went outside. They saw Seneca in a police car being beaten by a police officer and then they saw the officers drive away. Tari and Sicara decided to find out what was happening with Seneca because it did not look like the officers were driving in the direction of a police station. With Tari behind the wheel, they drove in the direction the officers had driven and near the jail, they saw a line of police cars.

Sicara, who was four months pregnant, saw Seneca in the back of a police car, crying with a swollen and bloody face. She yelled at the officers, asking them what they were doing. In response, an officer walked to the driver’s side of the car and tried to shift the gears of the car into park, but could not reach the gear. The officer then punched Tari in the face.

Tari drove off toward their apartment building, but when he stopped for a red light, a police car slammed into the driver’s side door. Panicked, Tari sped off, with police cars in pursuit. He got out of the car and was tackled by police officers. Tari was handcuffed, punched in the back of the head, and placed in the back of a police car where three officers beat him.

Tari was taken to a hospital for medical treatment. On the way, two officers punched him repeatedly.

Sicara was arrested and taken to a police station. She later said that when Seneca was brought to the station his face looked unrecognizable. Tari arrived not long after. He was wearing a bloody hospital gown.

Sicara was charged with disorderly conduct and released on bond. That charge was later dismissed. Seneca and Tari each were charged with several counts of aggravated assault on a police officer.

Tari was released on bond after 46 days, while Seneca remained in custody at the Cook County Jail for 204 days.

In May 2006, Tari and Seneca went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court before a judge who heard the case without a jury. The police officers testified that Tari and Seneca had attacked them while they were trying to arrest them. Tari and Seneca denied attacking the officers and testified that they were beaten by several officers. The defense presented the medical records of their treatment.

On May 18, 2006, Seneca and Tari were acquitted of the felony charges of aggravated assault of a police officer but convicted of misdemeanor battery. They were sentenced to probation.

Not long after, the officers who had testified against Tari and Seneca were indicted by a federal grand jury for planting evidence on defendants, falsely accusing defendants of having guns, and breaking into homes and robbing residents of guns, money and drugs and then filing false reports. The officers were among 13 members of the Chicago Police Special Operations Section or “SOS”, an elite unit established to target drugs and gangs. Thirteen officers were charged with crimes—four by a federal grand jury and nine others by a Cook County grand jury. They were accused of robbing suspected drug dealers, entering homes without search warrants and falsifying reports to cover up their unlawful actions.
 
Based on information in the federal indictment, prosecutors requested that the convictions of Seneca and Tari be vacated. The motion was granted and the charges were dismissed on December 19, 2006.
 
Jerome Finnigan, the admitted leader of the corrupt band of officers, pled guilty in federal court and admitted robbing people and invading homes without search warrants. He also pled guilty to attempting to arrange the murder of another officer whom Finnigan believed was planning to testify against him. Finnigan was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
 
Three other officers pled guilty to federal charges and seven of the nine officers charged in state court pled guilty as well. Their sentences ranged from probation to 6 months in jail. State charges against two other officers were dismissed.
 
The SOS unit was disbanded in 2007.
 
Seneca, Tari and Sicara filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago and the officers in 2006. The lawsuit was put on hold for more than two years while criminal proceedings relating to the police officers were conducted. The lawsuit was resumed in June 2009. Ultimately, the city of Chicago admitted liability. A trial was held to determine damages and in February 2014, a jury awarded Seneca $2.4 million in damages. Tari was awarded $1 million and Sicara was awarded $300,000 in damages.

However, U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle reduced all three awards. Seneca’s award was cut to $1,170,000, Tari’s award was cut to $350,000 and Sicara’s award was reduced to $125,000. In 2015, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals set aside Judge Norgle's reduction and ordered the original verdicts be reinstated.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/8/2014
Last Updated: 8/1/2017
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2006
Exonerated:2006
Sentence:Probation
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No