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Derrick Mapp

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with no crime
On April 12, 2006, 33-year-old Derrick Mapp was walking down the stairs of a building in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois, when two police officers confronted him. Sgt. Ronald Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed asked Mapp where “the stuff” was located.

Mapp said that he had just purchased a soda, potato chips, and candy from the “candy lady,” who sold such items to residents who didn’t want to go outside to a store. The officers searched Mapp and found nothing. Watts then reminded Mapp that some weeks earlier, Watts had warned him that if Mapp didn’t provide information, he would be arrested.

The officers took Mapp to an incinerator room on the third floor. There, Mohammed held Mapp’s arms behind his back and Watts began asking Mapp for information. Each time that Mapp said he had no information, Watts slugged him in the ribs. Watts specifically asked for information on Ben Baker, a man who Watts had arrested for possession of drugs. Baker had filed a complaint with the Chicago Police Department Internal Affairs Department accusing Watts of planting drugs on him.

“This went on for several minutes,” Mapp later said. “Eventually, Watts told Mohammed to take me in. They beat me up pretty bad.”

Mapp was transported to the police station where he was put in a room with several other men. He was chained to a wall, still in pain, and experiencing shortness of breath. Eventually, Watts came into the room and threw packages of drugs onto the table. “There was an older man sitting next to me that I had seen before,” Mapp later said. “I asked what was going on and he told me he thought Watts was about to use those drugs to frame me.”

“I was processed and eventually taken to (Cook) County Jail,” Mapp said. “The entire time I experienced more and more discomfort in my chest and side. At some point, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. I was eventually rushed to the…hospital and diagnosed with a punctured lung.”

Mapp was charged with possession of narcotics. On June 16, 2006, he pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court and was sentenced to four years in prison.

In 2012, Watts and Mohammed were caught on tape stealing money from a man they believed was a drug courier, but who was in fact working as a confidential FBI informant. In 2013, Watts and Mohammed pled guilty in U.S. District Court to taking money from the informant. Mohammed was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

Federal prosecutors said Watts “used his badge and his position as a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department to shield his own criminal activity from law enforcement scrutiny. He recruited another CPD officer into his crimes, stealing drug money and extorting protection payments from the drug dealers who terrorized the community that he [Watts] had sworn to protect.”

In 2006, Baker had been convicted twice—once alone and a second time with his wife, Clarissa Glenn, on charges of narcotics possession based on false testimony from Watts. In 2015, Joshua Tepfer, an attorney at the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, filed a petition to vacate Baker’s first conviction, citing the corruption of Watts and his unit. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) agreed in January 2016 that Baker’s first conviction should be vacated, and the petition was granted. Later in 2016, a petition filed on behalf of Baker and Glenn also was granted.

In December 2016, Tepfer and attorney Joel Flaxman filed a motion for a new trial on behalf of Lionel White Sr., another defendant who claimed he had been falsely convicted based on the corruption of Watts and his team. “The full known scope of the corrupt, more-than-decade-long criminal enterprise of Sergeant Watts…shows that Sergeant Watts led a tactical team of Chicago police officers that engaged in systematic extortion, bribery, and other related crimes…from as far back as the late 1990s through 2012,” the motion said.

The CIU agreed that White’s conviction should be vacated and dismissed the charge.

In November 2017, following a re-investigation of numerous other cases involving Watts, the CIU dismissed 17 convictions involving 15 more defendants, including the conviction of Lionel White Jr., the son of Lionel White Sr.

By the fall of 2020, about 75 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed. On December 15, 2020, following an investigation by the CIU, the convictions of Mapp and five others were vacated and dismissed.

Mapp was granted a certificate of innocence in February 2021 qualifying him for compensation from the state of Illinois. He received $80,000 in 2021. He also filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/19/2021
Last Updated: 12/6/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No