Lawyers say DNA evidence exonerates 2 men convicted of 1994 murder

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CHICAGO -- Attorneys say two men serving time for a brutal 1994 murder in Englewood were wrongfully convicted.

They say DNA evidence exonerates Darryl Fulton and Nevest Coleman. The men have been behind bars for more than two decades after they were convicted of the rape and murder of Antwinica Bridgeman on her 19th birthday back in April 1994.

Her body wasn't found for three weeks, and a brick had been shoved in her mouth to keep her from screaming.

Attorneys say DNA from semen on Bridgeman's underwear points to a serial rapist who assaulted at least three other women. The rapist's DNA was also found underneath her fingernails.

Coleman's lawyer, Russell Ainsworth, says his client had never been arrested in his life.

"He was 25 years old, working as a groundskeeper at Comiskey Park," Ainsworth said. "When he was arrested in this case, the only thing that convicted him was his false confession. But now we have explosive new DNA evidence demonstrating that he's innocent."

Attorneys said the detectives in the case forced confessions from other innocent people. Coleman's family members were at 26th and California Monday, hoping for a homecoming.

When Chanequa Allen’s father went to prison she was just two years old.

"I miss my daddy so much," she said. "And it's like I know he missed out on a lot -- birthdays, graduation, my first born child...and it's like I just want him home. I know he couldn't be there for me, but at least, can he be home?"

Allen said that since she was old enough to understand, she believed her father was an innocent man.

Now Coleman’s attorneys are asking a judge to let their client come home while more DNA testing is done.

“Looking at this case where you see a man who has never been arrested before where the only evidence against him is a statement that was taken by detectives with a history of misconduct who were supervised by John Burge. This is the kind of case that cries out for DNA testing,” Russell Ainsworth, Coleman’s attorney said.

All DNA testing in the case should be completed by the end of this summer. Prosecutors said they don’t think a judge should release anyone from prison until that testing is completed.

“I believe in my brother. From day one and I know he’s going to come home because he’s innocent,” Jennice Coleman said.

WGN reached out to the victim’s family today to see if they have been kept in the loop by prosecutors, but did not hear back.

For now, Coleman and Fulton will remain behind bars. Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx says she doesn't want to release anyone until all the DNA testing is complete. That's expected to happen later this month.

Statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office:


“Mr. Coleman’s case remains the subject of an intense review and investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit.  As stated in court today, we believe it is inappropriate to release Mr. Coleman until we have additional information about what role Mr. Coleman played in the rape and murder for which he was convicted.  We are awaiting additional DNA results and have asked for an expedited examination from the laboratory.    We will continue to approach the investigation of Mr. Coleman’s conviction with urgency, and remain in contact with Mr. Coleman’s counsel as the investigation proceeds.”