CHICAGO -- A Chicago man is spending his first full day enjoying freedom after being exonerated from a 1991 conviction.
“It’s surreal,” said Shawn Whirl, 45. “After being in prison over half of your life, to say you're honestly free you can never put that into words.”
It took nearly 25 years to clear his name. He was released from the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg Wednesday afternoon. Whirl said he is thankful for his family and the attorneys who supported him. In 1991, Whirl was convicted of robbing and killing a Chicago cab driver. Whirl says a detective who was a protege of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge tortured Whirl into signing a false confession.
Whirl was the first person granted a new trial after being referred by the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission. The commission was created in 2009 to investigate racially-motivated torture cases involving Burge and officers under his command.
“Each one of these cases has been a struggle that the city, the prosecutor's office, and others have resisted with all their might and all their resources,” said Whirl’s attorney, Flint Taylor, of the People’s Law Office.
In August, an appeals court overturned Whirl's conviction. All charges were dismissed, this week.
“It was hard,” said Whirl. “I didn’t give up.”