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Lloyd Newman

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with no crime
On September 9, 2006, 27-year-old Lloyd Newman was coming down the stairs after leaving his sister’s apartment in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois when he was stopped by Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and officer Alvin Jones.

Watts searched Newman. Although he found nothing illegal, Watts handcuffed Newman and the two officers marched him up to the third floor. There, Watts reached up above the frame of the hallway door and pulled down a plastic bag containing 20 individual baggies of crack cocaine.

“Watts then turned to me and said that I was going to jail,” Newman later said. “I tried to tell him that the drugs weren’t mine, but they wouldn’t listen to me.”

Newman was taken to a police station where he told Watts he was innocent and pleaded to be released. Newman explained that he was going to college and was not involved in drugs. Newman also told Watts that as a young teenager, he was the subject of the award-winning National Public Radio documentaries “Ghetto Life 101” and “Remorse: 14 Stories.” Newman explained that he was the co-author of the book: “Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago,” which chronicled life at the Ida B. Wells development.

“Watts was very interested in this and then he told Jones that they would let me go and get someone else for the arrest,” Newman later said. “However, Jones shot that idea down. I was charged with manufacturing, delivery, and possession of cocaine.”

Newman wanted to fight the charge, but his attorney recommended that he plead guilty. On May 16, 2007, Newman pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

In 2012, Watts and fellow officer Kallatt 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, Ben Baker was 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 January 2021, more than 80 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed. On February 19, 2021, following an investigation by the CIU, the convictions of Newman and eight others were vacated and dismissed.

In 2021, Newman received a certificate of innocence from the state of Illinois, allowing him to seek compensation for his wrongful conviction. He received $50,000. He filed a federal lawsuit in September 2021.

Newman died December 7, 2022 of complications from a life-long battle with sickle cell anemia. He was 43.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/2/2021
Last Updated: 5/19/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Age at the date of reported crime:27
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No