Case Against Police Commander Implodes
With a judge often standing over witnesses from the agency that oversees police misconduct and demanding more cooperative and coherent answers, the criminal case against a Chicago Police Commander all but imploded today.
Judge Diane Cannon was openly incredulous over the testimony of witnesses from the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) in the criminal trial of Commander Glenn Evans, charged with nine felonies for allegedly putting his gun in the mouth of gang member Rickey Williams in 2013. In that incident, Evans had called out a foot chase of Williams after Evans said he witnessed him with a gun.
The elements of the criminal case against Evans wilted under defense scrutiny. Defense attorneys introduced evidence that Williams failed to identify Evans in two photo lineups presented by IPRA investigators. This was one one pillar of the case that crumbled.
But so did another pillar, the claim that a DNA report from the state police incriminated Evans. Under intense questioning by Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, two state police lab scientists admitted in court that they did not test for saliva in a DNA sample taken from Evans’ gun.
The sample was taken by IPRA a day and half after Evans and several other police officers arrested Williams in a filthy, abandoned building where he was hiding.
Both scientists admitted that DNA sample, which proved positive for Williams’ DNA, was not necessarily saliva and could have ended up on Evans’ gun merely from contact with Williams in the course of his arrest.
But it was another scenario, that Evans may have been the victim of a frame-up, that was most chilling. Morask questioned former IPRA investigator Martice Campbell about reports she wrote about Evans a year and a half after interviews with witnesses that inculpated Evans. She also suggested that IPRA investigators compelled Williams to change his statements to bolster Williams’ allegations against Evans.
Morask asked Campbell if she had released the state police DNA report to the media, to WBEZ reporter Chip Mitchell, a violation of IPRA policy and a potential violation of Evans’ due process.
Campbell denied releasing the report.
Nor did prosecutors escape suggestions of misconduct. One officer who testified for the defense suggested that prosecutors filed a false report of his statements. The report was not signed by the officer.
In one particularly compelling exchange, Morask asked Campbell about the day she was fired from IPRA, accused of committing perjury and obstruction of justice in another case. Morask asked if Campbell went to the bathroom of IPRA and called Chip Mitchell for an on-air interview on WBEZ.
Campbell denied it, saying the interview took place from her home.
Mitchell refused to answer questions about the interview.
But Mitchell’s connection to Campbell and his reporting on the Evans case seems to be a theme defense attorneys want to explore further.
Mitchell wrote about the state police DNA report as if it were conclusive evidence of Evans’ guilt, but the testimony of the state police lab scientists threw doubt on that claim.
Once heralded as the journalist who broke the story on the Evans case with the DNA report, Mitchell has now been listed as a potential defense witness, something he fought by claiming reporter’s privilege, bringing in lawyers from the high-powered law firm of Jenner and Block. But Judge Cannon ruled he must testify. Mitchell now presents a strange visage in the courtroom. On the one hand he acts like a reporter, but on the other he is still in the company of his lawyers.
The trial is expected to conclude tomorrow.