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Ieliot Jackson

Other Cook County cases with mistaken witness identification
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On June 24, 2009, 27-year-old Ieliot Jackson was arrested on charges of selling heroin on four separate occasions to an undercover Chicago police officer on the west side of Chicago, Illinois.

Jackson was charged with selling heroin to officer Clark Eichman on June 4, June 11, June 13, and June 17, 2009.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office elected to prosecute the June 13th drug sale, which was charged as delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.

On July 13, 2010, Jackson went to trial in Cook County Court. Eichman testified that on May 30, 2009, he was working undercover, sitting in an unmarked car parked in the middle of the 4800 block of West Superior Street. A man that Eichman identified as Jackson approached the car riding on a BMX bike. In a conversation that lasted less than a minute and was not recorded in any police report, Eichman said Jackson asked for his name and telephone number. Eichman complied and then drove off.

Minutes later, Eichman said he received a call from an unknown number. When he answered, he recognized the voice as Jackson’s. Eichman said Jackson said that if he ever needed anything—which Eichman understood to mean narcotics—to call that number. Eichman said he stored the number in his cell phone under the name BMX.

Eichman did not record anything about this call in any police report. He said he told some of his fellow officers about it, but none of them filed any report about the call.

Eichman said that two weeks later, on June 13, 2009, he got a call from the BMX number at 9:19 a.m. Eichman said he told BMX that he needed to get “hooked up.” BMX told him to drive to 4800 West Superior.

Eichman said he notified his team to set up surveillance. When the officers were in place, he called BMX and asked to buy “four blows” of heroin. Eichman said he drove to Superior Street and parked near Nash Grammar School. He said he saw the man he knew as BMX walking toward him. As he reached the car, Eichman said, BMX handed four small plastic bags through the driver’s side window and he handed BMX $40 in marked money.

Eichman said he recognized the man as the same man who was on the BMX bicycle on May 30. Eichman radioed a description of BMX to the surveillance team—although he did not mention the lengthy beard that Jackson had. He then went to a police station, where he viewed a photographic array and identified Jackson as BMX.

Officer Charlie Person, the chief surveillance officer, also identified Jackson as the man he saw approach Eichman’s car, hand items through the window, and take money in return. Person also did not mention that Jackson had a beard. There were no electronic or photographic recordings of the transaction.

A crime lab analyst testified that tests on one of the bags in evidence was positive for heroin. An investigator testified that the school was 732 feet from where Eichman was parked.

The prosecution did not introduce the phone that Eichman used or any phone records corroborating Eichman’s testimony.

The defense did not present any witnesses.

The jury began deliberating on July 14, the second day of the trial. During the deliberations, the jury sent out three questions—why was the phone not introduced into evidence, why did Eichman park where he did, and why didn’t Person take any surveillance photographs? Cook County Circuit Court Judge Maura Slattery Boyle instructed the jury that it had heard all the evidence and declined to answer the questions.

After about two hours of deliberation, the jury sent a note saying it was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. The judge instructed the jurors to continue deliberating. About 15 minutes later, the jury convicted Jackson of delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.

On August 4, 2010, when the sentencing hearing began, Jackson said he wanted to proceed without a lawyer instead of being represented his trial lawyer, Eleanor Roos, who was an assistant public defender. Judge Slattery Boyle asked only a few questions of Jackson before allowing him to represent himself.

In March 2011, after several continuances to allow Jackson more time to prepare a motion for a new trial, Judge Slattery Boyle denied Jackson’s claim that his trial lawyer had provided an inadequate legal defense. She sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

In 2013, the Illinois Appellate Court set aside the sentence and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing. The appeals court ruled that Judge Slattery Boyle had failed to follow the Illinois Supreme Court rule which sets out in detail what should be asked of defendants who seek to represent themselves.

When the case was sent back, Jackson asked that he be appointed a lawyer and Peter Benesh, an assistant public defender, was assigned to his case. Ultimately, Jackson said he wanted to argue that both Benesh and his trial lawyer, Roos, had provided an inadequate legal defense. Judge Slattery Boyle conducted a hearing on that motion and denied it. At that point, Jackson said he wanted to present a motion for new trial without a lawyer. Judge Slattery Boyle found that he did not understand the ramifications of representing himself and denied his request to proceed without a lawyer. The judge then denied Jackson’s remaining motions and again sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

Judge Slattery Boyle tacked on an additional six months after finding Jackson in contempt when he said she was not being fair to him and then turned his back on her during the proceeding.

In March 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court ordered a new hearing on Jackson’s claim that his trial lawyer failed to present an adequate defense. Jackson claimed that his trial lawyer, Roos, failed to introduce the testimony of Isaac Williams, who was arrested on the same day as Jackson for different drug sales to Eichman. Williams, according to Jackson, was willing to testify that he was the person on the BMX bike, not Jackson.

Jackson argued that Williams was not difficult to locate because he was in custody. Judge Slattery Boyle interjected that Williams “was in custody, correct, with you?”

Jackson had replied, “No, he is not.” The judge then stated, “He was at the time. Go on.”

The appeals court ultimately found that the trial court had improperly considered evidence beyond the record. “The record did not support the fact that Mr. Williams, the witness purportedly willing to confess to the crime, had been incarcerated with defendant,” the appeals court said. “Whether that fact was ultimately true or false, which we do not know, we agree with the parties that this information is not in the record, and the trial court should not have relied on it.”

The appeals court ordered that the case be assigned to a different judge. In January 2018, Jackson was released on bond.

On September 20, 2018, Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks conduced a new hearing on Jackson’s claim of receiving ineffective legal assistance. Both Roos and Benesh testified that they provided a good defense, although Roos said she could not find the case file and had little memory of the trial at all.

At the end of the one-day hearing, Judge Hooks vacated Jackson’s conviction and ordered a new trial. “The Court was a bit surprised about Attorney Roos’s testimony today having been a supervising—now a supervising public defender in the office of (the) Cook County Defender who, in preparation for the type of hearing we had today, had not taken the time or had the ability to locate notes to recall key pieces of information related to her representation some years back,” Judge Hooks declared.

“When Ms. Roos can’t testify as to whether or not she even paid a visit to defendant while he was incarcerated or really give me any idea of what her total understanding of the matter was, it leaves me without a lot to grab onto concerning competence and her level of representation,” Hooks said.

On October 18, 2018, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

In 2019, Jackson, represented by attorney Jarrett Adams, who himself was exonerated of a crime he did not commit, filed petition for a certificate of innocence which, if granted, would entitle Jackson to compensation from the state of Illinois. In support of the petition, Isaac Williams provided a sworn statement that he rode a BMX bike and that he sold drugs to Eichman after exchanging phone numbers with the officer.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/10/2019
Last Updated: 10/29/2019
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Convicted:2010
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:13 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No