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Claude Brooks, Jr.

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations with Perjury or False Accusation
In October 1997, 35-year-old Claude Brooks, Jr., was accused of sexually assaulting his eight-year-old stepdaughter in Chicago, Illinois.

Brooks went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court in January 2000 and chose to have the case decided by the judge without a jury.

The victim testified that on the evening of October 17, 1997, she was alone in the family’s apartment—her mother and older brother were out. She said that she took a bath, put on her pajamas, and was on a cot watching television when Brooks pulled down her pajama bottoms and pulled down his pants. She said he penetrated her and at that moment her mother entered the room. Brooks then got up and pulled up his pants.

She testified that on a prior occasion, Brooks came into the bedroom she shared with her brother, took off her pajamas, and had sex with her until he ejaculated.  She admitted that she was unable to remember the dates when either of the assaults happened.

The girl’s mother testified that on October 17, 1997, she left the apartment about 8 p.m. Her son was spending the night at a friend’s house. She said she returned after 45 minutes, saw Brooks on top of her daughter, and screamed. She said that she took her daughter into the master bedroom and asked if this was the first time this had happened. Her daughter said it was not.

The girl’s mother testified that she slept in a chair outside the girl’s bedroom that night and did not leave the house for two days until a friend came by. She said she did not call police because they did not have a telephone.

During cross-examination, the girl’s mother admitted that after she came home the night of the incident, she used crack cocaine. She also admitted that she had left the apartment at least once before her friend came—to buy more cocaine to use with Brooks.

Dr. Gail Allen, a pediatrician at the University of Chicago Children's Hospital, testified that on October 19, 1997, she was working in the emergency room and conducted a sexual assault examination on the girl. In a preliminary interview, the girl said that after she took a bath, Brooks “began feeling on” her. The girl said she pushed Brooks away, but that he returned and “started doing it to” her. Allen testified that the girl said she had not been vaginally penetrated at that time, but that she had been penetrated in the past.

Allen said a general physical examination revealed the presence of “whitish” or “yellowish” secretions just outside of the girl’s vagina. The girl’s hymen was intact, but Allen said she found scar tissue on the right side of the girl’s hymen, which she said was consistent with chronic abuse. Allen also swabbed the girl’s vagina for a rape kit.

During cross-examination, Allen admitted that she was unable to find any evidence of sexual abuse within the past 72 hours aside from the abnormal secretions.

The prosecution and the defense presented an agreed statement that Jennifer Shultz, an Illinois State police crime lab analyst, determined that the victim's vaginal swabs contained semen. The defense and prosecution further agreed that a comparison between Brooks’s DNA profile with the DNA profile obtained from the vaginal swabs was inconclusive—the source of the semen could not be determined.

Chicago police Sergeant Kenneth Burke testified for the defense that on October 20, 1997, he observed a victim-sensitive interview of the girl at the hospital. He said the girl told the social worker that Brooks “kept messing” with her and that although he touched her “private part” while she was in the bathtub, he did not touch her with his “private part.”

Brooks’s defense attorney argued that the girl and her mother were testifying falsely.  The attorney noted that the girl claimed that Brooks had ejaculated on the prior occasion and not on the occasion just before she was taken to the hospital, where semen—which could not be linked to Brooks—was recovered.

On March 9, 2000, the judge acknowledged there were problems with the girl’s chronology of events.  Nevertheless, the judge said her account, as well as her mother’s testimony, were credible. Brooks was convicted of predatory sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The Illinois Appellate Court upheld Brooks’s conviction and he subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief. He claimed that his trial defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call Brooks’s mother and brother. Both would have testified that the girl’s mother was known to make false statements and had a drug problem.

The petition also requested that DNA testing be performed again, but with a more modern method—known as PCR—that was not performed on the evidence before Brooks’s trial. The petition was denied, and in 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld that ruling, denying his request for PCR testing.  The court held that the state statute allowed for subsequent DNA testing only in cases when the more modern method was not available at the time the initial testing was performed. While the evidence in Brooks’s case was not subjected to PCR testing, such testing was in fact available at the time.

In 2008, Brooks was released on parole, but continued to pursue DNA testing. Subsequently, a judge granted his request to allow Y-STR DNA testing on the evidence, and Brooks was excluded as the source of the male DNA found in the swabs.

Brooks went on a trial a second time and again chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. On April 30, 2013, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Carol Howard acquitted Brooks.

In December 2013, Brooks was granted a certificate of actual innocence. In 2014, the Illinois Court of Claims approved an order granting Brooks $185,000 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/20/2017
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Sentence:22 years
Age at the date of reported crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*