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Jesse Lockett

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with no crime
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On May 12, 2005, Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts arrested 18-year-old Jesse Lockett in a parking lot of the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. Watts said that when he and other officers approached, Lockett began to run and dropped a loaded semi-automatic pistol.

On October 20, 2005, Lockett pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to a charge of illegal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 30 months on probation.

In 2012, Watts and a fellow officer, Kallatt Mohammed, were caught on tape stealing money from a man they believed was a drug courier, but who was in fact working as a confidential FBI informant. In 2013, Watts and Mohammed pled guilty in U.S. District Court to taking money from the informant. Mohammed was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

Federal prosecutors said Watts “used his badge and his position as a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department to shield his own criminal activity from law enforcement scrutiny. He recruited another CPD officer into his crimes, stealing drug money and extorting protection payments from the drug dealers who terrorized the community that he [Watts] had sworn to protect.”

In 2006, Ben Baker was convicted twice—once alone and a second time with his wife, Clarissa Glenn on charges of narcotics possession based on false testimony from Watts. In 2015, Joshua Tepfer, an attorney at the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, filed a petition to vacate Baker’s first conviction, citing the corruption of Watts and his unit. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) agreed in January 2016 that Baker’s first conviction should be vacated, and the petition was granted. Later in 2016, a petition filed on behalf of Baker and Glenn also was granted.

Beginning in December 2016, Tepfer and attorney Joel Flaxman filed motions for new trial on behalf of dozens of men and women who claimed they were falsely convicted based on the corruption of Watts and his team. “The full known scope of the corrupt, more-than-decade-long criminal enterprise of Sergeant Watts…shows that Sergeant Watts led a tactical team of Chicago police officers that engaged in systematic extortion, bribery, and other related crimes…from as far back as the late 1990s through 2012,” their motions said.

The CIU began investigating the cases and agreed that the convictions should be vacated and dismissed. By 2018, more than 50 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On July 24, 2019, Lockett’s conviction was vacated and dismissed. On October 11, 2019, Lockett was granted a certificate of innocence. By then, a total of nearly 75 cases had been dismissed.

In November 2019, Flaxman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Lockett’s behalf seeking compensation for the wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/19/2021
Last Updated: 1/19/2021
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Convicted:2005
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:Probation
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No