FREEDOM

Wrongfully Convicted Man to Get $14 Million After Spending 29 Years in Prison

Illinois officials have agreed to pay $14 million to a man who was wrongfully convicted of a 1989 murder, The Chicago Tribune reports. Christopher Abernathy was exonerated four years ago after spending 29 years in prison for the murder of 15-year-old Kristina Hickey, who was found with her throat slit near a downtown shopping center on October 1984. Witnesses at Abernathy’s trial reportedly claimed he made strange remarks at Hickey’s funeral, and an acquaintance told police that Abernathy confessed to being the killer. Abernathy was 18-years-old when he was arrested. In a lawsuit, Abernathy’s lawyers claimed that police pressured their client—who has “learning disabilities”—into confessing during a 36-hour interrogation. The State’s Attorney at the time, Anita Alvarez, also confirmed in 2015 that none of the DNA found at the scene was Abernathy’s.

Two insurers will reportedly pay $13.5 million on behalf of Park Forest village and their police force, and Park Forest itself agreed to pay $200,000. The private polygraph examiner who allegedly tested Abernathy will pay $1,000, and Cook County officials are slated to pay $300,000. No one has been charged with Hickey’s murder since Abernathy’s release, and an Illinois State Police spokeswoman confirmed that there is an open investigation into her murder.