A Black man who spent three decades in prison for a murder he did not commit has filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit, naming the city of Chicago and the detectives who are believed to have framed him. James Allen was exonerated after another person confessed to the alleged crime and now he would like to be compensated for every year between 1987 and 2021 he was locked away.
According to a lawsuit filed by Allen’s lawyer Steven Becker obtained by Atlanta Black Star, the now 72-year-old is alleging he was forced to confess to the murder of Robert Ciralsky, a white man who was shot to death in front of his Hyde Park home on Aug. 1, 1984, resulting in him spending “nearly 35 years for this armed robbery and murder that he unequivocally did not commit.”
Allen and his team are asking for a judge to award him $100 million for his wrongful conviction and pain and suffering.
He alleges that when he testified that he was with the people who killed Ciralsky, he was actually parroting information fed to him by detectives looking for a quick and easy conviction. They were able to coerce Allen into saying he was the murderer by threatening to give him “the death penalty as well as offering monetary inducements and physical protection,” if convicted in the case they said was inevitably going to find him guilty.
Former Chicago police detective Michael Pochordo said the death penalty was “his opportunity to help himself,” and that it was in his best interest to cooperate.
Originally, the case regarding Ciralsky’s murder went cold but was picked up in 1985, after Pochordo received a phone call from “an anonymous caller who told him that if he wanted to solve Ciralsky’s murder, he should look to the people who had committed the murder of Carl Gibson.“
These men, Franklin Freeman and Henry Griffin, would introduce Allen’s name into the mix, claiming they exited his vehicle to murder Ciralsky. This led to Allen’s initial indictment.
The story laid out by the Cook County state’s attorney’s officer, led at the time by Richard M. Daley, had Allen as a member of a hit squad hired to take out Ciralsky, a Washington Park pharmacist, on behalf of some of Chicago’s biggest drug-dealing kingpins upset because he said he would no longer supply them with quinine that they needed to cut their street-grade heroin.
Prosecutors alleged Allen was the getaway driver for two other men who set up the murder to appear to be an armed robbery done wrong.
The claim states the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Darryl Moore, a career criminal and jailhouse snitch, who reportedly was paid $66,000 for his help in convictions, who also named Allen as one of the perpetrators of the crime, but he later admitted he lied.
“Moore later recanted this testimony and testified, inter alia, that provided him with plaintiff’s false confession and instructed him to testify consistent with the false confession at the grand jury in exchange for pay,” the lawsuit stated.
On Friday, Aug. 28, 1987, Allen was convicted of the murder, and on Tuesday, Sept. 22, sentenced to spend his “natural life for murder and 40 years imprisonment for armed robbery, which were to be served concurrently.”
The lawsuit stated, “He was convicted after the Defendants manipulated witnesses and suspects, fabricated evidence, used unconstitutional and coercive interrogation techniques to obtain a false confession from Plaintiff, and withheld exculpatory evidence that would have demonstrated his absolute innocence of these crimes.”
However, in 2009, another man named Robert Langford confessed to the Ciralsky murder in multiple sworn affidavits and a deposition while incarcerated.
“In his first notarized affidavit dated January 28, 2010, Langford stated that he and a deceased accomplice followed Ciralsky on the night of August 1, 1984, and confronted him outside of his home,” the lawsuit revealed. “He further stated that when Ciralsky was ordered to empty his pockets, Ciralsky refused, and Langford shot him. He proceeded to take money from Ciralsky’s pocket. He also indicated that someone inside of the Ciralsky home fired a shot, prompting him and his accomplice to flee by car. The affidavit went on to state that ‘James Allen is innocent of the Robert Ciralsky murder.’”
In a second affidavit, Langford stated law enforcement knew for some time that Allen was not connected to the case, but chose to wrongfully place him in the crime.
The lawsuit stated, “Langford executed a second affidavit on August 19, 2016, that reaffirmed Plaintiff’s innocence. The affidavit stated that an overweight detective from Area One Violent Crimes District (who Langford has since identified as Pochordo) and a stocky-built Assistant State’s Attorney (who Langford has since identified as Prosecutor A) who walked with a limp knew Plaintiff was innocent.”
“Prior to Plaintiff’s arrest for the Ciralsky murder,” the claim continues, “Langford’s accomplice in the Ciralsky murder, ‘Mr. Kirby,’ told Westside detectives that on the evening of August 1, 1984, hours prior to the robbery and murder of Ciralsky, Langford robbed and shot a man twice on California and Monroe with the same gun he used to murder Ciralsky.”
The confusion came as there were two men named James Allen, one that was nicknamed “Kirby” and another nicknamed “Head.”
Langford said, according to the lawsuit, “Kirby’s real name was James Allen. Kirby gave up my name to the authorities in connection with the murder of Robert Ciralsky. Afterward, I shot Kirby, as well as a man named John Goolsby, in Chicago.
“I was later convicted in their deaths. The man I know as ‘Head,’ whose name is also James Allen, was not present on the night that Mr. Ciralsky was killed and knew nothing about the armed robbery plan,” he explained.
Even as early as 1986, the prosecution knew that Allen was not connected to the death of Ciralsky, but through Pochordo, pushed to make sure Allen was pinned for the murder — even pushing Langford, the actual murderer to name Allen as the driver for the murder.
Allen’s lawyers called this an “egregious misconduct” for the officers to have engaged.
For years, Becker filed petitions on behalf of his client, and they were denied, or the court would delay moving forward. During the last scheduled court date, on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, the attorney was prepared to bring Langford forth to testify for the first time in open court that Allen was not involved with Ciralsky’s death.
However, four minutes after entering the court, a surprising reversal of position took place. The Cook County assistant state’s attorney Linda Walls announced the state was no longer opposing Allen’s post-conviction petition.
Despite Allen being cleared of this murder, and filing this lawsuit, he is not yet freed. He is currently serving 100 to 200 years for a different murder, the killing of a Chicago police officer in 1969, when he was 19, according to Injustice Watch.
As a young man, he and his friends tried to stick up an armored truck, but officers stopped the robbery. A shootout ensued and one officer was wounded and paralyzed. He died a year later, and though Allen did not shoot the cop, he was convicted in one of the first applications of the state’s felony murder statute.
He was on parole when the Ciralsky murder took place and maintains the reason the officers named him in the case was because he was a part of the killing of one of their fellow badges and were going to make right that one of the “cop killers” was set free.
Lawyers are asking their client to be awarded “compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees and costs against each Defendant, punitive damages against each of the individual Defendants, and any other relief this Court deems just and appropriate.”
The Chicago Law Department has declined to comment on the suit, but through a spokesperson said, “the Law Department has not yet been officially served with the complaint through the proper legal channels.”