Chicago will pay $9 million to a man who spent nearly 23 years in prison and faced the death penalty for a crime he says he did not commit.
Patrick Prince said he confessed to another man’s murder and attempted robbery at 19 after being slapped in the face, kicked and punched by retired Chicago Police Detective Kriston Kato, who is married to a criminal county judge. Prince’s is one of eight cases where people have accused Kato of using violence and intimidation to get a false confession.
The Chicago City Council agreed to give Prince the settlement award on Sept. 21.
Prince’s case went to trial in 1994. The state initially sought the death penalty, but he was convicted on August 24, 1994, and sentenced to 60 years in prison for murder and 25 concurrent years for armed robbery. Prince fought his conviction for several years, even without an attorney at times, the National Registry of Exonerations shows. In April 2017, a Cook County Circuit Court judge granted Prince’s petition he filed in 2014 for a new trial. Local prosecutors dismissed the charges the following month.
“This is a case that arose during the times, thinking, sentiments, customs and practices of the 1990s,” Circuit Court Judge Thaddeus Wilson said upon granting the petition. “Petitioner (Prince) was just 19 years old. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting that testified at trial. No physical evidence connected (Prince) to the crime. No forensic evidence connects (Prince) to the crime. The only evidence against (Prince) was his confession.”
Police said they received a tip that Prince killed Edward Porter in August 1991, and he had been going around robbing drug dealers and their customers. The tipster told police Porter was on the west side of Chicago buying drugs when Prince tried to rob him. Porter refused to submit, and Prince shot him, the caller said. However, a witness gave a description of the lone gunman that matched Javan Linson. Linson was near the scene, but he was questioned and released.
Prince had asked a judge during his pre-trial hearing to suppress his confession. He testified that Kato barged into his girlfriend’s house, pulled him from his bed with his gun drawn and took him to the police station, where he beat the confession out of him. Kato said another man, Jeffrey Williams, confessed to giving him the murder weapon.
Kato denied the allegations during the pre-trial hearing. He said he took Prince to the station as a witness and pointed him to Williams. He left Prince at the station twice to look for Williams, and when he returned the second time, Prince confessed. The judge denied Prince and Williams’ requests to suppress their confessions. Court records show that the defense never called Prince’s girlfriend to the stand.
Prince’s conviction was decided without a jury and rested on his confession. Several witnesses testified that Prince was not the culprit, the National Registry of Exonerations notes. One man testified that he saw Prince walk up to the scene to look at the body while he was leaving. Prince asked him what happened, and then both men walked away in opposite directions.
Two witnesses in Prince’s 2014 petition identified the shooter as Linson. The other man died in 2006.
Keith Gunn admitted that he was the tipster who linked Prince to the crime. Gunn said under oath that he wanted to “get back” at Prince for “stealing” a woman he liked. He thought the police would just harass him and never thought he would be charged with the crime.
The petition also included allegations from 30 people that Kato violently forced to confess to crimes, including a mentally challenged man who spent 11 years in prison for rape before he was cleared and freed in 2013.
Prince received a certificate of innocence from Illinois in 2018, and the state compensated him more than $226,500. He filed the lawsuit the same year.
The Chicago City Council agreed to pay a total of $25 million to Prince and two other people last Wednesday, including a $15 million settlement to the family of a civilian killed during a high-speed chase in 2020. Chicago officials said the city could have doled up to $25 million to Prince alone if the case had gone to trial.
“Mr. Prince claims he confessed only as a result of physical and psychological abuse during his interrogation,” said Jessica Felker of the city Law Department.