Cook County has a long history of false confessions resulting in wrongful convictions. Now there are numbers supporting that claim. According to a report by the National Registry of Exonerations, 95 people were exonerated in Cook County between January 1989 and December of 2013, almost twice as many as the next highest in the country. False confessions accounted for nearly 40 percent of the county’s wrongful convictions. In cases of murder or attempted murder, the number jumps to 47 percent.
In the roiling wake of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to marshal the full might of the federal government to root out “the terrorists among us.” The roundup that followed, conducted with wartime urgency and unusual secrecy, led to the detention of at least 1,100 people suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. The government’s effort, however, has produced few, if any, law enforcement coups. Most of the detainees have since been released or deported, with fewer than 200 still being held. But the campaign sparked fiery demonstrations by immigrant rights groups, including several in Chicago, and provoked a sprawling legal battle that is redefining the delicate balance between individual liberties and national security.