BY: The Exoneration Project

Charges Dropped Against Police Torture Victim Sean Tyler

Featured image: Sean Tyler gives a symbolic wave goodbye to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after his court appearance on September 17, 2021. Photo by Teddy Gonzales. 

17-year-old Tyler was framed in retaliation for his involvement in exposing police misconduct in another case

To download the press release, click here.

To see photos from Sean Tyler’s court appearance on September 17, click here. Photos by Teddy Gonzales.

 

On Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, the Cook County State’s Attorney moved to dismiss all charges against Sean Tyler in the Cook County Criminal Court. Tyler was 17 years old and had no criminal record when he was tortured and coerced into signing a false confession by a team of Chicago police detectives in retaliation for his involvement in exposing their torture of a 13-year-old in a different case.

In 1991, Sean Tyler witnessed a shooting. One adult and five juveniles, including 13-year-old Marcus Wiggins, were arrested. Wiggins alleged that he was tortured into a false confession via beatings and electro-shocks. Tyler knew that Wiggins’ confession was false but was terrified to come forward and cross the police officers for fear of retribution. Ultimately, a judge entered a protective order mandating that: “No Chicago Police Officer, involved in the arrest and/or interrogation of … M.W. … shall have any contact, verbal, physical or otherwise, with Shawn [sic] Tyler,” and “No Chicago Police Officer not involved in the arrest and/or interrogation of … M.W. … shall have contact … with Shawn [sic] Tyler … unless authorized in person by the Honorable Judge Earl Strayhorn.” Eventually, Wiggins and his co-defendants were all either acquitted or saw their charges dropped.

The Office of Professional Standards subsequently determined that detectives had violated Wiggins’ and his co-defendants’ rights. Wiggins brought a federal civil rights lawsuit.

In 1994, 10-year-old Rodney Collins was shot and killed when he was caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting. The police officers involved in the Wiggins case used that as an opportunity to seek revenge against Tyler. The officers—still subject to the protective order entered in the Wiggins case and at the time defendants in Wiggins’ federal civil rights suit—eventually arrested Tyler, beat him until he vomited blood, and forced him to sign a false confession. After Tyler signed the false confession, he was taken to the emergency room.

In 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court ordered an evidentiary hearing in Tyler’s case. The appellate court noted “countless instances of claims of police misconduct cited in [Tyler’s] petition [that] establish a troubling pattern of systemic abuse by the same detectives that interrogated him and investigated his case that calls into question whether [Tyler’s] confession was in fact the product of physical coercion.”1 The appellate court ordered a hearing in the trial court at which a judge could “determine whether any of the detectives who interrogated defendant may have participated in systemic and methodical abuse[.]”

That hearing was to have started today. Instead, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office moved the court to dismiss all the charges against Tyler and his co-defendant Reginald Henderson.

***

Karl Leonard (from left), Sean Tyler, and Lauren Myerscough-Mueller pose outside of the courthouse on September 17, 2021.