The Chicago Police Department’s investigation of a South Side shooting that left a teenage boy paralyzed from the waist down was nothing short of “pathetic,” a Cook County judge said.
Now, two brothers who spent 17 months in jail before Judge Joseph Claps in June cleared them of the attempted murder are suing the city and two detectives.
And the judge’s stinging rebuke of the way police handled the case against Vernell and Antwyone Green is the centerpiece of their federal lawsuit.
Vernell Green, 23, and his younger brother Antwyone, 22, were charged with the January 2013 attempted murder of Jryce Starling, 17, based entirely on Starling’s flawed hospital identification of them as the gunmen who shot him in the 8500 block of South Hoyne, the suit alleges.
Detectives James Scannell and Lorenzo Sandoval took a week before talking to Starling at Christ Hospital. And when they did, they showed him only two photos — mugshots of the Green brothers.
“The investigation in this case, pretty much, can only be described as pathetic,” Claps said as he cleared both men at the end of a bench trial on June 16.
“Given the nature of this violent act, you would think the police department would have some motivation to spend the time and effort to investigate the matter,” he said. “Apparently they chose not to.”
Claps — a former criminal prosecutor for the Illinois Attorney General — added, “unexplained by the evidence in this case is how detectives show up at the hospital seven days after . . . Mr. Starling’s been shot with photographs of the two defendants, the only photographs they have.”
Starling knew the Green brothers from Foster Park elementary school and was conscious and talking after the attack, but he did not identify the Greens as the shooters to relatives, paramedics or anyone else until the police showed him their photos in a “prejudicial identification procedure,” the suit states.
A trial transcript shows he testified at the Green brothers’ trial that the detectives “showed me the picture first,” before asking him who shot him.
An eyewitness to the shooting did not pick either Green out of lineups, nor was there any motive or other evidence linking the brothers to the scene.
And Claps also was irked that prosecutors failed to present medical evidence that Starling was paralyzed and failed to call witnesses to support Starling’s claim that he saw the Green brothers often in the neighborhood. “It is not rocket science!” he twice told prosecutors.
While Vernell Green has a previous conviction for attempted armed robbery, his younger brother has no criminal history, court records show.
Speaking on Aug. 18, Antwyone Green told the Chicago Sun-Times that he and his brother, who are both fathers of young families, “are just trying to get back on our feet,” after getting out of jail.
“I ain’t got a background,” he added. “I don’t know why they tried to do me like that.”
The Greens’ lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, who has a track record of success with similar claims against police, described the lawsuit as “an excellent case” and said it was still unclear why the Greens were targeted for prosecution.
Chicago Law Department spokesman John Holden declined to comment, saying city attorneys haven’t seen the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 15.
Source: Chicago SunTimes