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Roosevelt Myles

Other Cook County, Illinois homicide exonerations
Shortly before 3 a.m. on November 16, 1992, 16-year-old Shaharain Brandon and 15-year-old Octavius Morris were standing outside of Morris’s home in the 4800 block of West Washington Street in Chicago, Illinois when a gunman approached.

“This is a stickup,” the man declared and fired several shots at Brandon and fled. Brandon was shot twice and died.

Morris ran down the block to her cousin’s home. About 15 minutes later, she returned to the scene. She was put in the back of a police car. Not long after, officers brought 28-year-old Roosevelt “Blue” Myles to the vehicle and asked if he was the gunman. Morris knew Myles from the neighborhood, and she told the police that he was not the gunman.

Morris told police there were two teenagers involved. She said the gunman was 5 feet six inches tall and light-skinned. The other was 6 feet tall and wore a white jogging suit with dark stripes. She said she did not see the gunman’s face.

Over the next several days, detectives visited Morris at her home six times. During that time, she never identified Myles as the gunman. On December 7, 1992, three Chicago police detectives, including Anthony Wojcik, came to the home. Morris again said the two individuals involved were teenagers, one 5 feet six inches tall and the other 6 feet tall.

Detective Robert Rutherford later testified that 15 minutes into the interview, Morris began to cry, and told the detectives that the gunman was nicknamed “Blue.” The detectives later reported that they showed Morris a photographic lineup that included Myles’s photograph, and she selected Myles as the gunman. Later that day, police arrested Myles and put him in a lineup. Morris again selected him as the gunman.

Myles was charged with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.

In October 1993, an investigator for Myles’s defense attorney interviewed Morris. She recanted her identification of Myles. She said the gunman was a light-skinned Black teenager. Myles was dark-skinned and well past being a teenager. Morris signed a written statement saying she only identified Myles because the detectives repeatedly came to her home and kept telling her that Myles was the gunman.

In January 1994, Morris gave another statement to the defense saying that Myles was not the gunman.

In January 1996, Myles went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. Morris testified and identified Myles as the gunman. She told the jury that she had recanted her initial identification because she had heard rumors from friends that she was in danger. Morris was unable to articulate any specific threats or facts to support the rumors. She also admitted she had never reported the rumors to police.

Debra Lenoir and her brother, Oliver, testified that at about 2:45 a.m., they left a motorcycle club near the shooting and were walking to a liquor store when they heard gunshots. Debra testified that she saw Myles cross Washington Boulevard and Cicero Avenue.

No physical or forensic evidence linked Myles to the crime.

On January 10, 1996, the jury convicted Myles of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

In February 1998, the First District Illinois Appellate Court upheld the convictions and sentence.

On January 11, 1999, Myles, acting without a lawyer, filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that his trial defense lawyer failed to call witnesses who would have testified that they saw Myles come out of his house after the shooting. The petition was dismissed without a hearing.

Myles appealed. On December 29, 2000, the Appellate Court reversed the dismissal, ruling that he had presented the “gist of a meritorious claim,” and ordered a hearing on his petition.

Over the next decade and a half, four different assistant public defenders were assigned to the case, but no hearing ever took place. The case was continued nearly 100 times.

In July 2017, private attorneys Jennifer Bonjean and Ashley Cohen began representing Myles. In June 2019, they filed an amended post-conviction petition that asserted Myles’s trial defense attorney had failed to call alibi witnesses. The petition said that evidence showed that the gunman was Shawntan Smith, a former boyfriend of Morris who had shot at Brandon once before, but missed. Smith also resembled the initial description that Morris gave right after the shooting, the petition said.

The petition also accused Myles’s defense attorney of providing an inadequate legal defense by failing to call Morris’s mother, Delores, who would have testified that she heard Morris saying “over and over” that the gunman was a light-skinned man. The petition said the defense failed to call three witnesses who could have testified they saw Myles come out of his house, located near the shooting, almost immediately after the shots were fired.

The petition also said that Detective Wojcik “engaged in a pattern and practice of misconduct that involved abusing and framing suspects, manipulating and coercing false testimony, and covering up his own misconduct and the misconduct of his fellow officers.” The petition said he physically abused Myles in an unsuccessful attempt to coerce a confession from him.

The petition noted that Wojcik also came under fire following the controversial fatal shooting by police of Laquan McDonald in Chicago in 2014. An investigation showed that Wojcik rewrote and approved false reports to exaggerate the threat that McDonald posed before he was shot in an effort to justify the police shooting. Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of the shooting and sentenced to seven years in prison. Wojcik retired before he could be fired.

The petition said that after fellow detective Reynaldo Guevara was accused of misconduct in a separate murder investigation, Wojcik had filed a false report that said Guevara had not engaged in any misconduct. Guevara subsequently was found to have engineered dozens of wrongful murder convictions.

The petition also claimed that Debra and Oliver Lenoir initially told police they saw Myles at the motorcycle club and that he left between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.—more than an hour before the shooting. However, after being interviewed by Wojcik, they signed identical reports written by Wojcik that said they saw Myles near the scene of the shooting right after they heard gunshots.

In September 2018, Morris signed an affidavit admitting that she had testified falsely at the trial. She also said she was coerced by Wojcik to identify Myles as the gunman. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how Blue [Myles] is in prison for a crime he did not do,” Morris said in the affidavit.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the petition. On February 13, 2019, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Porter granted the motion. Porter ruled that Myles’s initial post-conviction petition was filed too late. As a result, Porter ruled, all subsequent petitions also were untimely.

In May 2020, the First District Illinois Appellate Court reversed the dismissal and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing. Myles was released on July 21, 2020.

On December 5, 2022, on the day a hearing on the petition was finally going to begin, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office requested that Myles’s conviction be vacated. The motion was granted and the prosecution dismissed the case—nearly 27 years after his conviction.

In September 2023, Myles filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Guevara and other police officers seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/5/2023
Last Updated: 12/21/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempt, Violent
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:60 years
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No