Man awarded $15M in wrongful conviction settlement

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. -- The city of Chicago Heights agreed Wednesday to one of the largest wrongful conviction settlements in the state.

51-year-old Rodell Sanders  was awarded 15 million dollars in exchange for spending more than 20 years in prison. He was wrongfully convicted of a 1993 murder.  Sanders says he was framed by officers in the Chicago Heights police department, some of which ended in up in prison themselves.

“Those were corrupt police officers,” Sanders told reporters.  “From day one, I said they framed me and no one believed me.  And now it’s finally come out.”

Sanders was released from prison two years ago after two retrials. The first ended with only one juror voting not guilty.  The second jury acquitted him of all charges.

Today’s settlement will help repair some of the injustice he suffered but not all.

“I don’t know if it makes things right,” Sanders said.  “I will never get back the 20 years they have taken from me.  I lost those years with my family with my children.”

There was never any physical evidence tying Sanders to the 1993 murder  of Philip Atkins, only eyewitness testimony.  His attorney says detective manipulated photos to pin the murder on Sanders and paid witnesses to help get the conviction.

After Sanders was convicted he studied law books then wrote his own appeal.  He finally won a new trial and, with help from attorneys, ultimately won his freedom and the 15 million dollar settlement.

Sanders now works at the law office that help win him this settlement.  He says hell keep working because there are a lot more innocent people behind bars.

Sanders has three children and seven grandkids who he says he is getting to know.

Chicago Heights says its admits no wrong doing and this decision was based on the best deal for tax payers.

To Sanders, settling the case is admission of guilt.