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Dwayne Hill

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations
On July 15, 2009, at about 1 p.m., 26-year-old Demetrius Harris was sitting in his van near the intersection of West Van Buren Street and South Kolmar Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, when he saw a black Grand Marquis approach with a gun pointing out of the passenger side window. As the car passed, the gun sprayed at least 10 shots at the van.

One of the bullets struck Harris in the back. He managed to drive off and saw a friend, who got behind the wheel, and drove Harris to the hospital. He spent several months there before he was discharged.

On July 25, while Harris was still heavily medicated, two Chicago police detectives, Roberto Garcia and Jose Gomez came to visit. They would later testify that Harris told them he knew the driver of the car as “Pig” and the passenger as “Weezy.” The detectives said Harris identified a photograph of 32-year-old Dwayne Hill as “Weezy,” and a photograph of 29-year-old Ricky [sometimes spelled as Rickey] Fountain as “Pig.”

On September 2, 2009, police arrested Hill and charged him with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

On September 3, 2009, detectives George Lopez and Jonathan Apacible picked up Stephen McKinnie, who was Harris’s cousin, and took him to the police station. There, McKinnie was questioned by detectives Wayne Raschke and Thomas Crain. The detectives, along with another detective, Jeffrey Adamik, would later report that McKinnie had been present at the shooting, had flagged down a police car containing Apacible and Lopez, had jumped into the car, and told them that “Pig and Weezy” had shot Harris.

On September 15, 2009, police arrested Fountain. He was charged with attempted murder.

On January 29, 2013, Fountain and Hill went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. They chose to have Judge Evelyn Clay decide the case without a jury.

The first witness was Harris, who denied that he identified Hill and Fountain. He denied seeing either of them in the car, denied knowing what kind of car the shots came from, and said he could not describe the gun.

Harris said he could not recall speaking to the detectives in the hospital or signing photos of Hill and Fountain. He said he was on medication after surgery and didn’t remember meeting with an assistant state’s attorney. He said he was on morphine and Tylenol 3.

During cross-examination, Harris said he did not see the person who shot him in the courtroom, and said the gunman was not Hill. Harris admitted that he had given a statement to the defense nearly a year prior to the trial. In that statement, Harris said he had no recollection of speaking to police or giving a statement to the prosecutor.

At the conclusion of his testimony, the prosecution asked that Harris be kept in the back of the courtroom in case he was recalled. Judge Clay advised him to return the next day. At the same time, Judge Clay gave the same admonishment to Tyisha Suddoth, whom Hill’s defense lawyer had indicated would testify as an alibi witness for Hill.

Detective Garcia testified that he spoke with Harris on July 25 and that Harris did not seem under the influence of any medication. He said that Harris identified Hill and Fountain as his assailants, using their nicknames. Garcia said Harris told him that there was bad blood between him and Hill and Fountain.

During cross-examination, Garcia admitted there were no records linking a Grand Marquis to the defendants, and that no physical evidence linked Hill or Fountain to the crime.

Nyshana Sumner, an assistant Cook County state’s attorney, testified that Harris gave a statement, which she wrote out. She said he did not appear confused and told her he was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. Sumner said Harris told her that Fountain and Hill were in the car and that Hill shot him.

An evidence technician testified that there were eight bullet holes in Harris’s van. He said five bullets were recovered from inside the van. Eight shell casings were recovered. The prosecution and the defense stipulated that a firearms analyst concluded that all eight casings were fired by the same weapon.

On January 30, the second day of the trial, the prosecution recalled Harris as a witness. During his testimony, he said that he was sitting in his van when a black car pulled up. He said Fountain was driving. The car pulled up next to his van, the passenger window went down, and Hill began shooting, Harris said.

He now testified that he remembered talking to the police and the prosecutor, and that he had identified Hill and Fountain as his assailants.

Harris explained that he testified differently the day before because he had decided to just let it go. He said the defendants had tried to bribe him not to tell the truth. Harris claimed that after the first day of the trial, he got a phone call that made him feel threatened and intimidated. Harris said the caller told him he better have done the right thing. Harris denied knowing who the call was from, but said he understood that he faced repercussions with his family.

During cross-examination, he admitted he got the phone call after he had already done what he was supposed to do. He volunteered, “You all told me you would pay me to sign an affidavit.” He went on to say that he wanted to leave the case alone, but “they” tried to intimate him and make him look like a snitch.

During a conference with the lawyers and the judge, the defense sought to ask Harris about a previous incident during which Harris had been arrested for shooting Fountain, but had been released after Fountain did not sign a complaint.

Fountain’s defense attorney, Tod Urban, informed Judge Clay that Labar Spann, a former client of Urban’s who was a high-ranking leader of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, was in the courtroom. Urban said that Spann had stopped him before court to inform Urban that Harris was going to change his testimony.

Harris admitted he had signed an affidavit for the defense denying he knew who shot him. He said he would not have changed his testimony if he had not gotten the threatening call.

When the prosecution re-examined him, Harris said he had signed the affidavit for the defense because he felt intimidated.

The next witness was McKinnie, who denied knowing Hill and Fountain. He claimed that he did not witness the shooting, did not wave down a police officer, and did not say that Hill and Fountain shot his cousin.

He said the detectives came to his house, handcuffed him, and took him to the station where they coerced him to say that he saw Hill and Fountain in the car from which the shots were fired.

Detective Apacible testified that McKinnie had flagged him down and said that Hill and Fountain had shot Harris. Detective Adamik testified that McKinnie told him at the station that Hill and Fountain shot Harris.

Detective Raschke testified that he and Detective Crain took a statement from McKinnie in which McKinnie described how the shooting occurred. Raschke said McKinnie also identified Hill and Fountain.

Although Hill’s defense attorney had told the judge that Tyisha Suddoth would be called to testify that Hill was elsewhere at the time of the shooting, she was not called. The defense rested without calling any witnesses.

On January 31, the third day of the trial, Judge Clay convicted Hill of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. She convicted Fountain of attempted murder. She sentenced both Hill and Fountain to 26 years in prison.

In February 2017, the First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed their convictions.

In 2018, the defense filed a motion for post-conviction relief seeking to vacate the men’s convictions. The defense said that a witness to the shooting had been located. The witness, Andy Wallace, gave a sworn affidavit describing the gunman as a light-skinned Black man with dreadlocks. Hill and Fountain were dark-skinned Black men and neither had dreadlocks at the time of the shooting.

Wallace also said that he spoke to Harris shortly after the shooting while Harris was still in the hospital. Wallace said Harris told him he did not know who shot him. Wallace said that when he first met Hill in 2016, he realized that Hill was not the gunman. Wallace also said that McKinnie was not present at the shooting.

The motion noted that prior to the second day of the trial, Spann approached Fountain, who was free on bond at the time, and demanded $20,000 for the testimony of Harris on the first day to remain the same. The exchange was witnessed by defense attorney Urban, who had previously represented Spann in a murder case in which Spann had been acquitted.

The motion said that Urban had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to inform Judge Clay that Spann attempted to shake down Fountain to keep Harris from implicating Fountain and Hill.

The motion noted that at the time, Urban was defending Spann in federal court against a drug conspiracy and racketeering indictment alleging a nearly two-decade pattern of drug dealing, murders, and a wide assortment of other crimes.

The motion also said that had Suddoth been called to testify, she would have said that she suffered from multiple sclerosis and on the day of the shooting, Hill had driven her to her medical appointment and was with her at the time.

In August 2018, the prosecution agreed to vacate the convictions. But Circuit Court Judge Angela Petrone, who was overseeing the case after Judge Clay retired in 2017, denied the joint motion of the defense and prosecution to vacate and dismiss the case.

Lawyers for Hill and Fountain then appealed to the First District Appellate Court. On September 12, 2018, the Appellate Court reversed Judge Petrone “in the interest of justice” and vacated the convictions. On September 28, 2018, the charges were dismissed, and Hill and Fountain were released.

In 2019, they filed a federal lawsuit against the detectives in the case and the city of Chicago. The lawsuit, which was still pending in 2023, accused the detectives of coercing false statements from Harris and McKinnie.

The lawsuit said McKinnie had been locked in an interrogation room for more than eight hours without food or drink. The detectives, the lawsuit said, “fabricated a false narrative in which McKinnie witnessed the shooting.”

“Harris’s testimony at trial was fantastically unreliable,” the lawsuit said, noting that the only evidence linking Hill and Fountain to the crime were statements that were “entirely the result of fabrication.”

On February 20, 2020, about 18 months after Hill was released, he was fatally shot in Berwyn, Illinois. Police said he was shot multiple times in the 7100 block of West Roosevelt Road.

On November 8, 2021, Spann was convicted in federal court of all charges, including that he was responsible for four murders. The convictions carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/30/2023
Last Updated: 5/30/2023
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:26 years
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No