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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Man jailed for crime he did not commit settles claims against St. Clair Co. over coerced confession in Cahokia

By Record News | Aug 23, 2017

BENTON – Lawyers for Jerry Outlaw of Cahokia have settled a claim that Cahokia police coerced a false confession from him. 

U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert signed an order on Aug. 22, giving Outlaw and Cahokia 60 days to craft settlement documents. 

Gilbert had previously described Outlaw, now 21 years old, as “essentially a young child in an adult’s body.” 

Outlaw sued police chief James Jones and detective Matthew Mason last year, claiming he spent eight months in jail for an armed robbery he didn’t commit. 

He also sued St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson and eight employees over jail conditions, but Gilbert dismissed those claims in April. 

Gilbert gave Outlaw 30 days to amend his complaint against the county, and Outlaw notified him of a settlement on the 30th day. 

The county board’s finance committee approved the settlement, according to minutes of a hearing before Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams on Aug. 2. 

The parties told Williams to expect a joint settlement motion in the near future. 

At the same time that Gilbert dismissed claims against the county, in April, he denied most of a motion to dismiss claims against Jones and Mason. 

“The court believes Outlaw has alleged facts that plausibly suggest the interrogation conduct of Jones and Mason shocked the conscience,” he wrote. 

He wrote that Outlaw told them, “I am slow in the head,” and “I lose memory real fast.” 

Outlaw also asked them, “Can you bring me to memory?” 

Gilbert also wrote that Jones and Mason must have known Outlaw didn’t understand the rights he waived. 

He wrote that they lied to him about what friends and family said, that they preyed on his concern for his mother and his infant child, and that they harassed him into telling the story they wanted to hear. 

“While the ultimate goal of finding the perpetrator of the crime would certainly be a legitimate objective, extracting a false confession is not, and the allegations in the second amended complaint suggest the latter was Jones and Mason’s actual goal,” Gilbert wrote. 

He ruled that he wouldn’t dismiss counts holding Cahokia liable for payment of any damages Jones and Mason caused. 

With the county out of the case, Williams set a settlement conference between Outlaw and Cahokia for Aug. 17. 

The conference produced no result, so Williams brought the parties back the next day and presided over an agreement. 

Latoya Berry represents Outlaw, in association with the law school of Northwestern University in Evanston. 

Brian Funk and Gail Reich represent Cahokia. 

Thomas Ysursa and Katherine Melzer represent St. Clair County.

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Organizations in this Story

Northwestern University Village of Cahokia