You can deny the crime and die in jail with a 100-year sentence. Or you can cooperate and go home tonight.
Those were the options laid out for then-17-year-old Terrill Swift in 1994, after being accused of the rape and murder of 30-year-old Nina Glover in Englewood.
After hours of interrogation and ultimatums, Swift signed a full confession for a crime he didn’t commit.
“You put a kid in a situation he’s never been in, who is naïve, not aware of his rights…nine out of ten kids will cooperate,” Swift said. “That’s the trickery that was played with me.”
Fourteen years after his conviction, Swift was exonerated based on DNA evidence that implicated another man. He became the 100th recorded person to be cleared of a wrongful conviction in Illinois.
Illinois leads all other states with 103 recorded exonerations, and Cook County has the most among counties with 78, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, the most comprehensive listing of exonerated crimes across the U.S.
Researchers hope the list, which documents roughly 2,000 cases since 1989 and was created by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School and the University of Michigan Law School, will reveal trends in wrongful convictions that will help change the practices that put innocent people like Swift behind bars.
But just because Illinois tops the list doesn't mean we're more likely than elsewhere to wrongfully convict or exonerate people.