In 1973, three men entered a small family-owned health food store in Evanston. They pulled guns on the father, mother and 14 year old son. One man began pistol-whipping the mother viciously. Shattering her skull in several places. Another turned on the boy and brutally beat him. The father for some reason was left unharmed. The three took money, some product and wallets and walked out the front. They got into a car driven by a fourth man and drove away. The mother and son were unconscious – the mother near death.
Two men were caught. Isaiah S. pleaded guilty to armed robbery and attempted murder and was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison. Darvie T. wanted to go to trial. The case was assigned to Judge Saul Epton where I was tasked as an Assistant States Attorney. We didn’t have much in the way of evidence against Darvie, so my partner and I decided to go talk to Isaiah – the one who plead guilty. Early one Sunday morning, we drove with two Sheriff’s police to Stateville. And we had a chat with Isaiah.
Long story short, Isaiah volunteered to testify against Darvie in exchange for a “reconsideration” of sentence. No obligation. We checked Isaiah out of Stateville and started the drive back to Chicago. Isaiah was in the back of the squadrol – cuffed. As we drove back from Stateville, Isaiah asked if he could “say something.” “Sure Isaiah” we responded. “Just between us girls, it wasn’t Darvie who was there — it was his brother. But I’ll say anything you want.” We talked and Isaiah volunteered the whole story. Darvie was not one of the four. But Isaiah was willing to testify against him. On the chance of a more lenient sentence. What to do? There was no option.
That Sunday afternoon, we brought Isaiah to Chicago Police HQ at 11th & State where he was on a polygraph for nearly five hours. His story passed with flying colors. Next day, when Darvie’s case was called, I just said “nolle” (nolle prosequi). And the case was dismissed. The right thing was done – for the right reason. As was always the case.
Oh – and Isaiah? Yeah – we’d told him if he testified a judge might reconsider his sentence. He had told the truth. So we kept our word. And his sentence dropped by a year at each end. The right thing was done – for the right reason. As was always the case. . . . .