By ART GOLAB
A man who spent 25 years behind bars for a rape he did not commit is the latest wrongfully convicted ex-prisoner to collect a multimillion settlement from the City of Chicago.
The City Council Finance Committee authorized $6,375,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Larry Gillard, alleging the police crime lab distorted evidence in his case.
Gillard, now in his 50s, was convicted of a May 1981 rape after he was identified by the victim in a photo lineup and after a crime lab analyst testified that he was among only 4.4 percent of the African-American population that could have provided the semen recovered.
A jury took less than an hour to convict him, and he was sentenced to 24 years.
A later audit of the city crime lab found it did not comply with standards, and it was shut down and its work was turned over to the State Police.
After Gillard spent decades in prison, the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School took up the case. State Police DNA tests in 2009 definitively excluded Gillard and he was granted a certificate of innocence.
“We basically had proof that the crime lab misrepresented the results in Larry’s case,” said his attorney Jon Loevy, of Loevy & Loevy. “If they had reported them accurately, he never would have been convicted. We also developed evidence that this was going on routinely.”
Loevy was protective of his client and gave few details of his current life. “He’s a very gullible guy. People take advantage of him easily,” Loevy said.
“He’s trying to make a life. When you’re wrongfully convicted, obviously it interferes with your ability to build a career and make relationships with people. It really breaks your life, but he’s doing the best he can under the circumstances.”
Gillard knew that his settlement was in the pipeline, according to Loevy.
“Nothing is going to give him back the years that he lost, he’s doing his best to live his life. But he is appreciative that the city has at least made this effort to right the injustice,” Loevy said.
In another recently settled wrongful conviction case, the City Council in September approved a $12.3 million settlement to be divided between Ronald Kitchen and a co-defendant, Marvin Reeves. They were convicted of murder after Kitchen confessed under torture by detectives under the watch of Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.