Even though it has been 11 years since Officer Clifton Lewis was murdered on December 29, the Chicago Police Department continues to honour his memory. He was off-duty when he was slain, but he was working as a security guard at a local Austin convenience store.
Earlier verdict reversed
Two of the three individuals who were accused with Lewis’s murder have been found guilty so far, but one of those judgements was reversed due to suspicions that the police were involved in improper conduct during the investigation. And only the week before, attorneys for the alleged shooter, Alexander Villa, who was found guilty after his trial in 2019 filed a 140-page motion for a new trial, claiming that law enforcement officials and detectives suppressed information from the defence attorneys.
Edgardo Colon, the alleged getaway driver, was found guilty at trial in 2017 and sentenced to 84 years in prison. However, his conviction was overturned after an appeals court threw out his confession because police continued to question him after Colon repeatedly asked for a lawyer. This led to the conviction being overturned.
An appeals court ruled in 2020 that Clay’s statement was obtained only after detectives ignored Clay’s repeated requests for a lawyer, and that Clay’s low IQ made him unable to understand his Miranda rights. As a result, Clay’s trial has been delayed by a lengthy — and successful — effort to throw out his own confession. Clay’s trial has been delayed by a lengthy — and successful — effort to throw out his own confession. Clay and Colon have both backtracked on their previous confessions.
According to Villa’s lengthy motion for a new trial, detectives failed to turn over evidence that could have ruled out the three men as suspects early on in the investigation. A 2012 FBI report on cellphone data showed that none of the three were near the convenience store at the time of the shooting, nor were they together at any point that day.
In addition, the report showed that none of the three were together at any point that day. Because Villa’s defence was based on the fact that he was texting with his girlfriend at the time of the incident, Villa’s attorneys assert that the police withheld a “extraction report” on Villa’s girlfriend’s smartphone despite the fact that it was crucial evidence.
Information about two men who were suspected of robbing the same store two weeks earlier was not included in the police files that were turned over to the defense, nor were reports on interviews with numerous members of the Spanish Cobras street gang who were canvassed by investigators, including one Cobra who was choked by a CPD detective while being interviewed at Danville prison.
Jennifer Blagg, who represents Villa, stated that she did not understand why the state’s attorney would not just grant her client and her team a new trial. “That is all plainly exculpatory material, and between what was not given over and what they now say has been lost, there is just not much that they can argue,” the defense attorney said. “That is all exculpatory evidence.”
In documents filed with the court, prosecutors have stated that all of the material that is currently being requested by Villa, Colon, and Clay’s attorneys in a flurry of motions was accessible to those attorneys many years ago.
“The manner in which the [defense] motion is worded and presented gives the impression that the People have concealed facts from the defense. This is not accurate at all “prosecutors stated in their response to a motion made by the defense one month ago.
According to a statement written by Assistant State’s Attorneys Nancy Aducci and Andrew Varga, “it is not required by the rules of discovery for prosecutors to be administrative assistants for the defendant or defense counsel.”
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In fact, during the course of a multi-day interrogation in early 2012, Colon told detectives he was a “pathological liar” and was only telling them what they wanted to hear because he knew that was what they wanted to hear. He recanted his statement to the police almost at the same time that he was offering his confession.
Even after being granted immunity by the prosecutors, he continued to refuse to testify against Villa. As a result, he was given a term of contempt of court that lasted for six months.
“I’m going to implicate myself because I want to get out of here as soon as possible.” Colon is heard saying the following on the recording of their conversation, as taken from the transcript. “I’m thinking that’s the quickest way to get out of here, so I’m telling you, you know what I’m saying, what you want to hear so I can get the f- – – out of here,” she said. “I’m telling you, you know what I’m saying, what you want to hear so I can get the f- – – out of here.”
Colon’s attorney, Paul Vickrey, stated that without the defendant’s confession, they will not have much of a case against Mr. Colon. “We do not feel they will have much of a case against Mr. Colon,”
Melvin DeYoung, a fourth man who was allegedly with Colon, Villa, and Clay the night of the murder, has also recanted his testimony and claims that he only implicated the three co-defendants after he had spent days in police custody and needed to be hospitalised because he was denied the insulin he required to treat his Type 2 diabetes. DeYoung was with Colon, Villa, and Clay the night of the murder, according to the prosecution.
The officer who was murdered was described as a “gentle giant.”
The killing of a law enforcement officer almost usually receives a great deal of attention from the media, and the death of Lewis was particularly upsetting. Lewis was working the store security job in part to save up money for his wedding; he had proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas Day, just four days before he was shot and killed.
His fellow officers referred to him as a “gentle giant.” The eight-year veteran of the CPD was revered by his colleagues as a “gentle giant.”
The grainy security camera footage, which was played multiple times for the jurors in both Colon’s and Villa’s trials, showed a violent shootout inside the store, with a gunman jumping over the counter to shoot Lewis at close range, then stealing the dying officer’s service weapon. This footage was shown to the jurors at both Colon’s and Villa’s trials. The amount of money in the cash register was less than $700.
At a press conference held one week after the shooting, former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy made the announcement that charges will be brought against Colon and Clay. After nearly two years had passed, charges of murder were brought against Villa.
Jennifer Blagg, who represents Villa, stated that the case contains all of the hallmarks of other wrongful conviction cases that she has battled, including a high-profile case, protracted interrogations, and coerced confessions.
“At least my guy and Clay have been locked up for more than ten years,” Blagg added. “These folks have already served their time.” “This presents an opportunity to act in a morally responsible manner.”