Debra Green

On March 19, 2010, 31-year-old Debra Green was a passenger in a car in a funeral procession for her sister on the South Side of the City of Chicago when the driver of another vehicle began swerving in and out among the mourners’ cars.

When Green yelled at the car, the driver, Chicago police officer Sylshina London, who was late for work, summoned other officers for help—radioing in a call of “10-1,” which signals an officer is in distress and needs assistance.

Several officers responded to intercept the procession and curbed the car carrying Green, which was driven by Anthony Fisher. Police also pulled over another car in the procession driven by Taneal Jones.

Green, Jones and Fisher were ordered out of the vehicles, handcuffed and forced to their knees. London told the officers that Green had thrown a bottle out of her car window and struck London in the face.

Because Green was detained, she missed the burial ceremony. All three were charged with misdemeanor battery and their identification was confiscated.

That evening, Fisher went to a police station to retrieve his identification. There, he was handcuffed, put in a cell and held until the following day.

Green filed a complaint against London with the police department’s Independent Police Review Authority, denying she had thrown a bottle at London. On March 23, 2010, a police investigator told Green that he would obtain recordings from blue-light cameras at the intersection where the London said the bottle-throwing incident occurred.

On September 21, 2010, Green, Fisher and Jones went on trial in Cook County Circuit Court before Judge James Ryan, who heard the case without a jury. London testified that Green threw a bottle through London’s open car window and hit London in the face. Green testified and denied that she had thrown a bottle at London. Green said she yelled at London that she was interfering with the procession, which included about 100 vehicles.

Fisher and Jones were acquitted and Green was convicted. She was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The Review Authority’s investigation continued. The blue-light camera records, which were not turned over to attorneys for Green, Fisher and Jones, ultimately were disclosed to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The recordings showed that no bottle was thrown—in fact, London’s window was not even open.

In August 2011, at the request of the prosecution, Green’s conviction was vacated and the charge was dismissed. Green, Fisher and Jones filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against London and other officers involved in the incident.

In November 2011, London, who by then had resigned from the police department, was charged with perjury.
 
In announcing the indictment, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said, “As prosecutors we expect and demand truthful testimony from each and every witness who takes the stand in a criminal trial, and that expectation runs even deeper for police officers who have taken a sworn oath to tell the truth.”
 
London was convicted in January 2013 and was awaiting sentencing in August 2013.

—Maurice Possley

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State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Misdemeanor
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2010
Convicted:2010
Exonerated:2011
Sentence:Probation
Race:Black
Sex:Female
Age:31
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No