In a final push to revisit cases in which former Chicago police officer Ronald Watts was involved, the State Attorney’s office reversed course and agreed to vacate 44 convictions. Almost every case that was tied to the former officer has been reviewed. Many convictions have been vacated on appeal after allegations that torture and coercion led to convictions. Watts was also implicated in planting evidence.
Initially, prosecutors appeared ready to defend these cases due to the fact that other officers who were not involved with Watts also contributed to the conviction. However, the DA reversed course and decided to vacate the convictions on the basis that even his cursory involvement was enough to taint the case. A total of 100 convictions have been vacated against 88 defendants as part of an exoneration review of Watts’ cases. Three convictions not associated with exoneration efforts have also been vacated. According to the State Attorney’s office, 212 convictions have been vacated due to Watts’ criminal police work. Only a handful of convictions now remain before the court.
The officers, many of whom remain on the force, were accused of running a protection racket from a South Side public housing complex. They forced drug dealers to pay a “tax” and pinned bogus charges on anyone who did not.