Chicago families push for release of loved ones whose cases were investigated by alleged witness-tampering cop

On Tuesday, activists, attorneys and families called on Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to begin an inquiry and take action to overturn the alleged wrongful convictions.

Families in Chicago are demanding the release of their loved ones incarcerated as a result of cases handled by a former now-retired investigator accused of misconduct.

On Tuesday, activists and attorneys gathered with the families at the Leighton Criminal Court Building to call on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to begin an inquiry and take action to overturn the alleged wrongful convictions coming from cases investigated by Sgt. Brian Forberg, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The state’s attorney’s office maintained, via a statement, that it analyzes cases individually based on available facts and the law to reestablish trust in the judicial system.

Chicago police misconduct -- Kim Foxx
Activists, attorneys and families in Chicago are calling on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (above) to launch an investigation into cases investigated by a now-retired detective with the Chicago Police Department following allegations of misconduct. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“We understand the concerns of the community,” the statement read, “and will continue to fight for the best and fairest outcomes for every resident.”

In an open letter to Foxx and other officials, the lawyers and activists cited more than a dozen people with convictions they alleged were related to Forberg. A Chicago Police Department official said Forberg — who’s been accused in court filings in several cases of pressuring witnesses into giving false testimony — retired effective Oct. 10.

The letter also noted concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest at the state’s attorney’s office due to Forberg’s marriage to an assistant state’s attorney in the Conviction Integrity Unit. Special prosecutors are handling several cases related to the detective.

Family members referenced long-standing systemic misconduct at the police department, contending that the influence of some figures — such as former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, who, alongside his “midnight crew” of detectives, systematically coerced confessions from Black men; Ronald Watts, accused of framing individuals at the former Ida B. Wells public housing building on the South Side; and Reynaldo Guevara, also accused of framing suspects — continues to resonate with communities.

Lakisha Jackson, whose brother, Kevin, is serving a 45-year sentence for murder, said families are exhausted and “want all this put behind us today.”

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Kevin Jackson was convicted of shooting and murdering one man and wounding another at a gas station in 2001, although multiple witnesses recanted their testimonies. According to court filings, one witness at the scene said detectives, including Forberg, threatened to detain her and take her baby.

Jackson filed a motion on Tuesday asking the court to vacate his conviction, noting that prosecutors are not opposing it.

In a 2021 Supreme Court ruling, the court dismissed Jackson’s right to pursue a post-conviction petition while still raising concerns about the police misconduct allegations.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville contended in a concurring opinion that prosecutors must investigate such accusations to see if the remarks and grand jury evidence identifying the petitioner as the criminal resulted from witness intimidation or coercion.

“I write separately because I am deeply troubled by the recurrence of complaints of serious misconduct by police officers against witnesses and defendants in criminal cases,” Neville wrote, the Tribune reported. “Such allegations call for corrective action to ensure that the methods employed by police in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses are both fair and appropriate.”

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