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Who is eligible for a Certificate of Innocence?

A Certificate of Innocence will go a long way in helping you put your life back together if you face wrongful conviction of a crime.

Attorneys used this document earlier in the year for the release of two men who had served decades in prison for a murder they did not commit.

What it is

A form of post-conviction relief, the Certificate of Innocence can facilitate your release if the courts wrongfully imprisoned you, and it can clear the related conviction from your record. It is available through the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act. To be eligible, there must be a preponderance of evidence to prove your innocence. The Certificate of Innocence could also work for you if the evidence that is available is sufficient indication that you are not guilty of the crime that results in your conviction.

The Certificate at work

In the spring of 2018, the Certificate of Innocence freed Nevest Coleman and his co-defendant, Darryl Fulton, from prison. In 1994, law enforcement arrested the men and charged them with the rape and murder of a young woman on the south side of Chicago. Coleman discovered the body of Antwinica Bridgeman in the basement of an apartment building owned by his mother. Both men confessed to the crime initially, then took back their confessions, but spent almost 25 years behind bars. Coleman later said that detectives had beat him and threatened him into confessing, and Fulton said that the detectives also coerced him into confessing. Both men filed civil rights lawsuits against the city and county based on the coercion claims. DNA testing, which tied the murder to a serial killer, was the evidence that set the Certificate of Innocence in motion.

Helping the innocent

There are many laws, both state and federal, that protect citizens and punish those who commit crimes. However, innocent people are sometimes caught in the crosshairs of a criminal activity. If you go to prison for a felony you did not commit, a Petition for Certificate of Innocence can correct the mistake, secure your freedom and clear your record.


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Notable Results

  • Accusation: Attempt First Degree Murder
  • Facing: 30 years in prison at 85%
  • Result: Post-conviction petition granted
  • Accusation: Solicitation of a Prostitute, Obstructing Justice, Battery
  • Facing: 365 days in jail, loss of legal residence
  • Result: All charges but battery dropped, one year expungeable supervision
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Law Office of Stephen L. Richards
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Chicago, IL 60604

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Phone: 773-467-7079
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