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Patrick Prince

Other Cook County Exonerations
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On the evening of August 28, 1991, 37-year-old Edward Porter was fatally shot near the corner of Francisco Avenue and Flournoy Street on the west side of Chicago, Illinois.

The area was bustling at the time and police interviewed more than a dozen people. Witnesses said Porter drove up and parked his car moments before a lone gunman shot him and ran from the scene.

On September 7, 1991, police received an anonymous telephone call saying that 19-year-old Patrick Prince shot Porter, and that Prince had been committing numerous robberies and shootings of drug dealers and their customers. By that time, police had concluded that Porter came to the corner to purchase narcotics. The caller said that Porter had purchased drugs and Prince tried to rob him. When Porter resisted, Prince shot him and fled.

A day after the shooting, a witness provided a description of the gunman that resembled Javan Linson, who was near the scene after the shooting. Police questioned Linson, but he denied involvement and was released.

On October 6, 1991, detective Kriston Kato and other detectives began looking for Prince. They found him living with a girlfriend, Barbra Ann Starling in the 3000 block of Flournoy—two blocks from where Porter was murdered. Kato would later testify that Prince accompanied them willingly to the police station where, the following day, he confessed to shooting Porter. The following month, on November 5, 1991, Kato also arrested Jeffrey Williams. According to Kato, Williams confessed that he had given a .38-caliber pistol to Prince to rob Porter.

Both men were charged with first-degree murder and attempted robbery. Prince’s attorney filed a motion to bar use of the confession at trial.

At the pre-trial hearing, Prince testified that Kato barged into the apartment with his gun drawn and rousted him from his bed. Prince said he was handcuffed and taken to a police interrogation room. There, he was cuffed to a wall and interrogated. Prince said that when he refused to confess, Kato slapped his face, kicked, and punched him until he finally relented and confessed.

Kato denied that he physically abused or coerced Prince during the interrogation, and denied that he had taken Prince in handcuffs from the apartment. Kato said that he began questioning Prince merely as a potential witness, and that Prince said that at the time of the crime, he heard gunshots and ran to the scene. Kato said Prince told him that he heard people saying that another man named “Jeffrey” attempted to rob Porter and had shot him.

Kato testified that he left the station to look for Jeffrey based a physical description and possible locations that Prince supplied. Kato said he returned to the station an hour later when he did not find Jeffrey. At that time, Kato said Prince told him that Jeffrey’s last name was Williams. Kato said he left the station again in search of Jeffrey Williams, but could not find him.

Kato said that finally, at about 4 a.m. the following morning, he asked Prince if he knew of any other place where he could find Williams, and Prince responded that he had borrowed a gun from Williams to rob Porter. When Porter resisted, Prince said, the gun went off accidentally and shot Porter. At that point, Kato said Prince was arrested and charged with murder.

Williams also sought to suppress his confession. He testified that Kato physically abused and coerced him until he, too, falsely confessed. Kato denied mistreating Williams.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Shelvin Singer denied Prince’s motion to bar his confession, but said the decision was difficult. Singer noted that the defense had not called Starling, Prince’s girlfriend, to testify, although she was present when Kato came to get Prince. He also denied Williams’s motion to suppress his confession.

Prince and Williams went to trial in August 1994 and elected to have Judge Singer decide the case without a jury. The prosecution sought the death penalty against Prince.

The prosecution presented no witnesses who identified Prince as the gunman and no physical evidence linked him to the shooting. It instead relied almost solely on the confession. Similarly, no evidence linked Williams to the shooting except his confession.

Several witnesses testified that Prince was not the gunman. Juanita Reed, who lived near the location of the shooting, testified that she heard gunshots and saw the gunman flee. She said Prince was not the gunman.

Another neighbor, Darren Ray, testified that he was sitting on his porch when the shots were fired. He said that he went to the scene and, as he was leaving, saw Prince and another man walking toward Porter’s body. Ray said that Prince asked what happened. After he told Prince that a man had been shot, he and Prince then walked away in separate directions.

On August 24, 1994, Judge Singer convicted Prince of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. He sentenced Prince to 60 years in prison for the murder and a concurrent sentence of 25 years for the attempted armed robbery. Williams was also convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In 1997, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld Prince’s murder conviction and sentence, but vacated the attempted armed robbery conviction because it was a lesser-included offense.

In 1998, Prince, acting without a lawyer, filed a post-conviction petition for a new trial, asserting that his lawyer had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call Barbra Starling to testify about the circumstances of his arrest. The petition was denied without a hearing, and the appellate court upheld the dismissal in 2000.

In 2011, Prince filed another petition seeking a new trial, and the Cook County Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent him. In 2013, lawyers at the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School began representing Prince.

In 2014, following a re-investigation of the case, attorney David Owen filed an amended petition for a new trial. The petition cited four witnesses who said they saw the man who shot Porter and that it was not Prince. Two of these witnesses identified the gunman as Javan Linson, who was the very first suspect. Linson died in 2006.

One of the witnesses, Keith Gunn, admitted that he had been the anonymous caller who said Prince shot Porter. Gunn said under oath that he was angry with Prince for bullying him and for “stealing” a woman that Gunn wanted to be his girlfriend. Gunn said that he wanted to “get back” at Prince and hoped that police would harass him, but he never believed that Prince would actually be charged with the crime.

The petition said that Barbra Starling had provided a sworn affidavit that Kato came into the apartment with a gun drawn and immediately handcuffed Prince and hauled him out of the apartment.

The petition also presented evidence of complaints by more than 30 people that Kato had beaten and coerced them during interrogations. Some were ultimately not charged, some were acquitted, and some had their convictions overturned by appellate courts. The petition said that Kato had a longstanding “pattern and practice” of misconduct during interrogations. For instance, Kato was accused of beating Carl Chatman, a mentally challenged man who was convicted of raping a courthouse aide in a Chicago courtroom. Chatman was exonerated in 2013.The Exoneration Project documented numerous cases spanning two decades of similar allegations of physical abuse by Kato, who uniformly insisted that the confessions were voluntary.

In April 2017, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thaddeus Wilson granted Prince’s petition for a new trial.

“This is a case that arose during the times, thinking, sentiments, customs and practices of the 1990s,” Judge Wilson. “Petitioner (Prince) was just 19 years old. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting that testified at trial. No physical evidence connected (Prince) to the crime. No forensic evidence connects (Prince) to the crime. The only evidence against (Prince) was his confession.”

“Allegations and findings of past misconduct by police during questioning of suspects are now at an unprecedented high and we now better understand the psychology of false confessions,” Judge Wilson said. “To ensure substantial justice be done, defendant should be granted a new trial.”

On May 16, 2017, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charge against Prince and he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/27/2017
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempt, Violent
Reported Crime Date:1991
Convicted:1994
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:60 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:19
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No