CHICAGO — Lawyers for a Gurnee man freed from a downstate correctional center following nearly 29 years of incarceration are filing a civil lawsuit on his behalf for wrongful conviction.
Attorneys with Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, and Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC plan to argue that Herman Williams’ wrongful conviction “was the result of a fabricated confession, manufactured and concealed evidence, and false testimony by law enforcement, public servants who had abandoned their professional and ethical obligations to falsely acquire this conviction to advance their careers.”
Williams was released from Sheridan Correctional Center on Sept. 6, 2022 after a Lake County judge threw out his conviction tied to the murder of his ex-wife, Penny Williams.
Williams’ body was found in a Waukegan pond near the Midlane Country Club on Sept. 26, 1993.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Gurnee man freed after 1994 murder conviction tossed
Prosecutors at the time argued Williams killed his ex-wife so he could take his children to California, where he was being restationed following his tenure at Great Lakes Naval Base.
Sentenced in 1994, the Navy veteran’s 2022 exoneration came after work with the Illinois Innocence Project. The case was overturned due to forensic re-examination, new DNA testing, and a demonstration of serial misconduct by law enforcement officials involved in the case, lawyers stated.
The lawsuit names multiple defendants, including then-agents with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, former Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Mermel (who resigned in 2012), and the estate of then-medical examiner Nancy Jones, who is deceased. In addition to misconduct, attorneys allege that members of the Task Force, Mermel and Jones, all fabricated evidence.
According to lawyers, one of the agents involved in the case, Sgt. Lou Tessmann, manufactured a confession that Herman never gave. In 2022, the State’s Attorney Office admitted to Tessman’s pattern of fabricating evidence, lawyers added.
The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 23. Cook and Lake counties, the city of Waukegan, and the villages of Gurnee, Libertyville, and Vernon Hills were also named.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.