CHICAGO - Four men wrongly imprisoned for decades sued Chicago law enforcement Monday, claiming misconduct on the part of detectives and failure to hold officers to account led to their convictions for a double murder.
The lawsuits were the latest in an ongoing reckoning with past police abuses at the third largest American city, as old cases are reviewed and some prisoners' convictions overturned due to misconduct by law enforcement.
Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, LaShawn Ezell and Troshawn McCoy were exonerated last year.
Criminal charges against them were dropped in light of evidence implicating a convicted drug dealer in the 1995 robbery and killing of two people who owned a used car dealership.
The four men were convicted as teenagers and each spent about 20 years in prison, despite a lack of physical evidence tying them to the crime.
Only one of them had completed his sentence before their convictions were overturned.
In their lawsuit, the exonerated inmates targeted former police officers and the prosecutor in their case, saying officials improperly coerced false confessions out of children, without allowing access to legal representation or adult family members.
The men's cases were the latest in a host of overturned convictions and exonerations in the midwestern US city, where there is a long history of police abuses.
The lawsuits claimed the police department failed to properly discipline and supervise officers with a pattern of misconduct.
"These actions were not an aberration -- it was behaviour that (was) encouraged, supported and concealed by the Chicago Police Department for years," said Alexa Van Brunt, an attorney representing Johnson.
A new city prosecutor has initiated an effort to review old cases for possible police misconduct or wrongful convictions.
In the first move of its kind, a Chicago judge in November exonerated 15 men at once. All had been accused of drug crimes by a disgraced police sergeant and his team of officers.
Among the defendants in the current lawsuit are two police detectives previously accused of wrongdoing.
Kenneth Boudreau had a "history of obtaining allegedly dubious confessions" and James Cassidy was sued for allegedly framing an eight-year-old boy for murder, according to the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
A Chicago police spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.