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Antonio West

Other Federal Exonerations out of Illinois
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On June 3, 2010, Chicago police responded to a report that several men were carrying large screen televisions on the sidewalk in the 1300 block of 92nd Street on the south side of Chicago.

One officer said he saw 43-year-old Antonio West and another man carrying a large screen television into a three-story apartment building. The officer entered the building and walked into an apartment where he found several people and the television.

A few minutes later, police brought a man to the scene. The man identified the television as one of two televisions that had been stolen from his residence. The officer questioned West, and he denied any involvement in the theft of televisions. The officer said West claimed he had been paid $10 to carry the television into the building. When asked about the second television set, the officer said West told him that it was in the attic of his residence located nearby at 9238 S. Loomis Street.

The officer later testified West signed a consent form allowing police to search the residence. When the officers went into the attic, they found a television and an M-1 carbine. The police said that West told them the gun was his and that he kept it in the attic because it was safe there.

The officers did not know at the time that the resident was the home of West’s father, who had died six months earlier and that the gun was the weapon that West’s father carried during his service during the Korean War. Over the years, West lived on and off in a nursing home or a mental health facility because he suffered from a variety of mental health problems and although his father was dead, West still used the Loomis Street address as his mailing address.

West was not prosecuted in state court for possession of the television, but the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office referred the evidence relating to the rifle to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because federal weapons statutes carry harsher punishment that state weapons charges. In January 2011, West, who had prior convictions for aggravated assault, robbery, burglary and sexual assault, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of illegal possession of a firearm.

Prior to his trial, West’s defense lawyer filed a motion seeking an evaluation of West to determine his mental competency. An examination showed that West had been mentally impaired since he suffered a head injury as a young boy. He had dropped out of school after the fourth grade and his IQ was quantified at 73—borderline mentally deficient.

West’s lawyer filed a motion to suppress West’s statement that the gun was his, arguing that West suffered from mental illness and so was not capable of intelligently waiving his Miranda rights. The defense also said that West’s statement was the product of police questioning and that he merely agreed with the officers who suggested the gun was his. The defense noted that West scored high on the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale, a psychological test that measures a person’s degree of suggestibility.

Moreover, Devin Webb—one of several people present on the day of West’s arrest, testified at the suppression hearing that the police account was not true. Webb testified he and some relatives were walking down the street when a man—not West—approached and offered to sell a large screen television. Webb said they took the television to his cousin’s house and made sure it worked. Then, Webb said, they began walking to another relative’s house to get money to buy it. As they walked down the street, they met West—whom they knew—and he joined them.

Just about that time, numerous police arrived and corralled everyone, demanding identification. Webb said no one—especially not West—was carrying a television. Webb testified that during questioning by the police, his cousin said he had just purchased a television. Police took the cousin’s keys to his residence, went there and returned with two televisions. When the cousin said he could point out which one he just purchased, police ignored him. Instead, Webb said, the police handcuffed West, put him in a squad car and went to West’s residence around the corner.

When they returned, they had the rifle, Webb said. The officers then presented a paper—the consent for the search—to West and he signed it, Webb said.

The police denied Webb’s account and said West signed the consent form after waiving his Miranda rights and accompanied them into his home where he showed them where the M-1 carbine was in the attic.

Police testified at the suppression hearing that West told them the gun was his and he kept it in the attic because it was a safe place. The interview was not recorded and West did not sign a written confession.

Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras denied the motion to suppress the confession. He ruled that West was competent to waive his Miranda rights and did so voluntarily. West’s attorney then made a motion to allow the expert testimony about West’s mental condition to be admitted at trial to help the jury assess the reliability of the confession, to negate the intent element of the charge and to explain West’s demeanor if he were to testify.

The prosecution objected to the testimony being presented to negate intent or to explain West’s demeanor, but agreed the expert’s testimony was admissible on the issue of the reliability of the confession. However, Judge Kocoras barred the expert from testifying at all.

West was found guilty of the illegal possession of a weapon charge after a one-day jury trial on August 14, 2013, despite the defense claim that the gun belonged to West’s deceased father and that West did not knowingly possess it in the legal sense required for a conviction. West was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In December 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed West’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled that the expert testimony should have been allowed at the trial.

The expert’s testimony “would have explained West’s low IQ and mental illness and how these combined conditions might have influenced his responses to the officers’ questions while in police custody,” the appeals court said. “We think it plain that expert testimony that West is a suggestible, mentally ill person with a verbal IQ of 73 bears on the reliability of his statements to police.”

On April 12, 2016, the prosecution dismissed the charge and West was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/15/2016
Last Updated: 4/15/2016
State:Fed-IL
County:(Northern)
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2010
Convicted:2013
Exonerated:2016
Sentence:15 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:47
Contributing Factors:False Confession
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No