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Elgin Jordan

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with no crime
At about 10 a.m. on March 31, 2015, Chicago police officers arrested 46-year-old Elgin Jordan on a charge of selling heroin near the corner of Roosevelt Road and Springfield Avenue on the west side of Chicago, Illinois.

Jordan asserted he was innocent and refused to plead guilty.

In November 2015, during a court hearing which Jordan did not attend, his attorney asked Cook County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Sacks to schedule a jury trial. At a hearing on October 6, 2015, which Jordan did attend, his defense attorney said, “We are set for [a] jury today,” but then requested a continuance to subpoena witnesses.

Jordan told Sacks, “I would like to have this jury trial and everything…but I just want to get on the record that I have been having problems with my counsel.” Nothing further was said, and Sacks granted the continuance.

On January 5, 2016, a jury was selected. The jurors then were excused and told to return the following day to be sworn in.

On January 6, 2016, before the jurors were brought in, Jordan told Judge Sacks that he wanted to “just waive my jury trial and go pro se.”

Judge Sacks replied, “I’m not accepting a waiver at this point. So you’ll still have a jury trial…We spent four hours – almost four hours getting a jury yesterday. You wanted a jury. You got a jury. I’m not going to take a bench trial at this point. If you want to go pro se, go pro se.”

Jordan said, “Okay. Well, I mean –“

Sacks interrupted. “I’ll admonish you of your rights going pro se, but it will be in front of a jury and we can just finish the jury now.”

“And it [has] to be today?” Jordan asked.

“I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t be today, sir,” Sacks replied. “We picked the jury yesterday. It took three and a half hours to get the jury picked…The jurors will be here by 11 o’clock.”

Jordan said that his lawyer had not filed pretrial motions and requested that he be allowed to go back into the lockup to “finish” motions he had prepared. Jordan also requested an evidentiary hearing. He told Sacks he had filed a complaint about his defense attorney with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Sacks said, “We’re done playing the games…You are going to trial today with this jury” either with his defense lawyer or pro se.

Sacks then asked, “Why didn’t you answer before I got the jury picked yesterday, three and a half hours of going back and forth getting the jury picked?”

“Sir,” Jordan said, “I had brought it to your attention [on November 16]….I said I was having discrepancies with my attorneys and you said –“

“Discrepancies don’t mean you’re entitled to wave a jury at this point or not go to trial today, sir,” Sacks declared. “You waited until after we spent three and a half hours getting the jury picked and now today you want to either go pro se or wave the jury. I will not accept a waiver at this point after going through all that. If you wanted to waive a jury, you could have done it yesterday before we even started.”

Jordan chose to go forward with a jury trial represented by his defense lawyer. Chicago police officers Brian Cox and Rocco Pruger testified for the prosecution.

Cox testified that he was conducting surveillance in the 3900 block of West Roosevelt Road when he saw, on two occasions, different men approach Jordan. Cox said Jordan took money from the men and handed them small black items from his shirt sleeve.

Pruger said that he and two other officers, David Salgado and Peter Theodore, were radioed by Cox, and they converged on Jordan. Pruger said that Jordan admitted that he had “blows” [heroin] in his sleeve. Pruger said they recovered a clear plastic bag with nine black-tinted baggies containing heroin.

The prosecution presented evidence that laboratory testing of the substance in the baggies was positive for heroin. The drugs weighed 3.6 grams.

The trial lasted less than a full day. The jury convicted Jordan of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. On June 16, 2016, Judge Sacks sentenced Jordan to eight years in prison.

On November 5, 2018, Jordan was released on parole.

In August 2019, the First District Illinois Appellate Court vacated Jordan’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appellate court ruled that because the jury had not been sworn in at the time Jordan asked for a bench trial, Sacks should have granted him a bench trial.

The prosecution argued that the trial began at the moment jury selection began and that once a trial had begun, a defendant does not have absolute right to a bench trial.

The appellate court disagreed. “We agree with Mr. Jordan that the point at which the jury is sworn [in] is the point at which a criminal defendant loses his absolute right to waive a jury.”

The appellate court noted that “[w]asting a trial judge’s time” with a lengthy jury selection “only to turn around and ask the same judge to decide the merits of the case does not strike us as sound trial strategy.”

“Mr. Jordan’s request was disruptive, likely dilatory, and complicated by the fact that it was intertwined with a request to proceed pro se,” the appellate court said. Nonetheless, the court said Jordan was entitled to a new trial. The court added that perhaps the trial courts should swear in the jury “as soon as it has been selected, rather than having the jurors come back to be sworn in the next day.”

By the time the ruling was issued, the case, as well as dozens of other similar cases, had come under a cloud of suspicion. Salgado and another officer, Xavier Elizondo, had been indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption charges relating to the falsification of search warrants, planting guns and drugs on innocent men and women, and the theft of cash and other valuables from homes that were illegally searched. The officers were accused of filing false reports to cover up their illegal conduct.

In October 2019, two months after Jordan was granted a new trial, Salgado and Elizondo were convicted. At a sentencing hearing during which federal prosecutors described them as “thoroughly corrupt,” Elizondo was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, and Salgado was sentenced to five years and eleven months in prison. As a consequence, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed more than three dozen cases involving the corrupt officers.

On December 13, 2019, the prosecution dismissed the charge against Jordan.

In 2020, attorney Joel Flaxman filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Jordan, seeking damages from the city of Chicago as well as officers Cox, Salgado, Theodore, and Pruger. The lawsuit said that at the time of Jordan’s arrest, police department records showed that Cox had been the subject of 22 complaints of official misconduct, Pruger had been accused of official misconduct on 23 occasions, Salgado had 21 official misconduct complaints, and Theodore had 14 official misconduct complaints. The lawsuit was settled in 2021 for $100,000.

As part of Flaxman’s investigation of Jordan’s case, he discovered that Cox, Salgado, and the other officers had claimed to have arrested another man, Michael Jones, at almost the exact same time and same location as they testified that they arrested Jordan. At Flaxman’s request, Jones’s conviction was vacated, and the case was dismissed in 2022.

On December 2, 2022, Jordan was granted a certificate of innocence, clearing the way for him to seek compensation from the state of Illinois. In August 2023, Jordan was awarded $109,682 in state compensation.

By 2023, two other convictions had been vacated and dismissed: Sharron Rocquemore and Matthew Dixon.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/24/2023
Last Updated: 1/30/2024
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Sentence:8 years
Age at the date of reported crime:46
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No