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Kevin Bailey

Other Cook County Exonerations with False Confessions
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At 2:15 p.m. on June 1, 1989, the body of 69-year-old Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired police officer, was found on the floor of her open garage on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. She had been stabbed to death and her purse was missing.

Woods was last seen 30 minutes earlier when she deposited a check at a nearby bank and withdrew $100. Near her body, police found two sets of keys, a bloody towel, and the strap of her purse, which had apparently had been cut from the purse. Under her body was a Domino’s Pizza hat.

A 6-inch serrated steak knife, which was believed to be the murder weapon, was found on the sidewalk not far from the scene. Because it was raining, it was of little evidentiary value.

Police recovered two strands of hair on the bloody towel and a single hair on the hat. Police believed the hat was dropped by the perpetrator because it did not belong to Woods or any members of her family.

About three hours later, police discovered Woods’s purse in a garbage can a block away from the scene of the crime. They recovered her bankbook, deposit slips, a check register, and other items. No money was found. Seven fingerprints were recovered from the items.

A few days later, police arrested Larry Johnson on unrelated charges. Johnson, who was initially viewed as a suspect in the murder, told detectives that he had overheard an argument between 19-year-old Corey Batchelor and Batchelor’s brother, Tony. Johnson said he heard Tony tell Corey, “Man, you shouldn’t have gone in that lady’s purse.” Johnson also told police that Emil Batchelor, father of Tony and Corey, “knew” that Corey was involved in the murder.

As a result, on June 6, 1989, detectives came to the Batchelor family home and Johnson pointed him out. The officers then took Batchelor to the police station and put him in an interrogation room where he would spend the next 27 hours.

For the first 24 hours, Batchelor said, he was never read his Miranda warning, although detectives questioned him repeatedly. He denied any involvement in the crime. At one point, he said he had been in a park with a friend, 19-year-old Kevin Bailey, and they found $50 in cash on the ground. Based on that statement, detectives arrested Bailey on June 7 and brought him to the station.

By the end of that day, Bailey and Batchelor both had given confessions to a court reporter. Although the confessions were inconsistent in many significant details, both said that Bailey had stabbed Woods to death and that they took her purse.

Batchelor and Bailey were charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, and burglary.

Both men claimed that the confessions were false and the product of repeated beatings by the detectives. Batchelor said he was kicked, punched, and choked. The detectives, he said, “started telling me I was lying and things like this, and one of them just began to kick me…one of them choking—hit my head against the wall.”

Batchelor said that detectives traded off—one would come in and tell him that he would be protected from the beatings if he just confessed. “All I had to do was tell them something against Bailey,” he said.

When one detective came in, “he saw what one of the officers was doing, so he tried to ask the officer not to do that,” Batchelor said. “And so the officer just stopped for a while,” but told Batchelor that “if I didn’t tell him what I had done in the case, that he would kill me. If he didn’t kill me, he would beat me so bad, I wish I was dead.”

By that time, detectives were also interrogating Bailey. He later testified that he was being similarly beaten because he said he was not involved in the crime.

Both men said the detectives fed them the details of the crime. “They had told me everything that had happened in the case that day and they tried to inform me of what (Bailey) had said, so they tried to get us to put the story together,” Batchelor said.

The two men went to trial separately. Hair analysis excluded them as the source of the three hairs. Police said that none of the fingerprints belonged to either Bailey or Batchelor. The only evidence linking them to the crime was their confessions.

In October 1990, Bailey went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. Bailey did not testify, and detectives told the jury that Bailey spontaneously confessed halfway through a polygraph examination that Batchelor killed Woods. The detectives said that when Bailey was asked how he did it, he raised his left hand above his shoulder. Because the detectives knew Batchelor was right-handed, they concluded that Bailey had stabbed her. The detectives denied physically abusing Bailey.

On October 18, 1990, the jury convicted Bailey of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and burglary. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Batchelor went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court in April 1991, and chose to have his case decided by a judge without a jury. Batchelor testified in detail about the physical abuse inflicted on him, particularly by Detective Robert Rice, who he said threatened to kill him.

On April 5, 1991, the judge convicted Batchelor of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and burglary, and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

In August 2004, Batchelor was released from prison on parole. By then, both men had filed numerous appeals and post-conviction motions for new trials, but all were unsuccessful.

Ultimately, in 2006, the Innocence Project took up Bailey’s case and sought DNA testing of the evidence. Ultimately, testing excluded Batchelor, Bailey, and Woods as the source of the hair found on the Domino’s Pizza hat, and confirmed that the hair came from a man.

Similarly, the testing excluded Batchelor, Bailey, and Woods as the source of the two hairs found on the bloody towel. A blood pattern expert examined the towel and concluded it had been handled by the murderer.

DNA tests performed on swabbings from the purse revealed a mixture of DNA from two males—neither of which was Batchelor or Bailey.

Lawyers for the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University School of Law, and the People’s Law Office joined the Innocence Project to file a petition for a new trial on behalf of Batchelor and Bailey based on the DNA test results.

By that time, allegations of torture involving scores of defendants—including Batchelor and Bailey—had been made against Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge and detectives under his command. In 2010, Burge was convicted in federal court of perjury for denying torture allegations during questioning in federal lawsuits brought by other torture victims. He was sentenced to 4½ years in prison.

As part of the re-examination of the torture allegations, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission was established to investigate claims of police torture. Defendants with credible claims could qualify for up to $100,000 as well as other benefits. Batchelor filed a claim, but it could not be reviewed until after the claims of defendants still incarcerated were reviewed. Bailey never filed a claim.

The petition for new trial detailed the evidence of the widespread and systemic use of torture by detectives, including those who interrogated Bailey and Batchelor. “Each of the detectives involved in the interrogations and confessions of Kevin Bailey and Corey Batchelor previously has been implicated in abusing, torturing and/or violating suspects’ constitutional rights,” the petition said. “And where these officers were interrogating suspects that they believed to have murdered the wife of a fellow police officer, it is hard to imagine that the detectives deviated from their brutally effective methods of extracting confessions in other cases.” As had occurred in prior cases alleging torture, a special prosecutor, Stuart Nudelman, was assigned to handle the case for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

In 2017, following a hearing held to address only the DNA test results, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Alfredo Maldonado ruled that the new evidence was insufficient to overturn the convictions. At that point, Nudelman retired as special prosecutor. Robert Milan, a former first assistant Cook County State’s attorney who had since entered private practice, was appointed to take over the case for the next step—a hearing on the torture claims.

However, after reviewing the case, Milan determined that the conviction should be vacated. On January 30, 2018, Judge Maldonado granted Milan’s motion to vacate the conviction. “The evidence against Batchelor and Bailey does not meet the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt,” Milan said in a statement.

Milan then dismissed the charges and Bailey was released. Batchelor then withdrew his claim before the Torture Commission because the commission only reviews cases of convicted defendants.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/3/2018
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1989
Convicted:1990
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:80 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:19
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*