Harold Hill and his co-defendant, Dan Young, Jr
., were convicted of the rape and murder of Kathy Morgan, 39, whose body was found in a burning building on the south side of Chicago on October 14, 1990. She had been raped, strangled, doused with gasoline, and set afire.
Seventeen months later, Chicago Police Detectives Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran obtained a confession from a young man named Peter Williams, who purportedly said he committed the crime with Hill and Young – both of whom also proceeded to confess to Boudreau and Halloran. Hill’s and Young’s confessions implicated each other, as well as Williams. All three said they had raped Morgan. Prosecutors obtained indictments against the trio, but a problem soon came to light: Williams had been in jail when the crime occurred. The case against him had to be abandoned, but prosecutors proceeded undeterred against Hill and Young.
Hill, who was only 16 at the time of the crime, was tried as an adult jointly with Young, age 31, before Judge Thomas Durkin in the Cook County Circuit Court. Neither defendant had a prior criminal record. Durkin denied defense motions to suppress the confessions, even though they obviously were partly false, in light of Williams’s alibi, and even though Young had an IQ of only 56 and could not have understood a Miranda warning.
Separate juries were impaneled because the confession of each defendant was inadmissible against the other. In addition to introducing the confessions, prosecutors called a self-styled forensic odontologist, Dr. John Kenney, who linked a bruise and a bite mark on Morgan’s body to Hill and Young. The juries found both defendants guilty of murder. They were sentenced to life in prison without parole, and their convictions were affirmed on appeal.
In 2004, DNA tests requested by defense attorney Kathleen Zellner established that hairs found at the murder scene and cellular material found under Morgan’s fingernails could not have come from either Hill or Young. Prosecutors argued that the hairs were unrelated to the crime and that the cellular material could have come from sweat or drool left by police or paramedics.
On January 31, 2005, however, prosecutors abandoned those far-fetched theories and dismissed the charges, and Hill and Young were freed. Fourteen months later, Young was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Chicago.
In 2011 the City of Chicago settled a wrongful conviction law suit against the Chicago Police Department for $1.25 million, including $7,500 each from detectives Boudreau and Halloran personally. Hill is now serving a 27 year sentence for an unrelated unarmed robbery committed after he was exonerated for the Morgan murder.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions