Dubbed the “beauty shop rapist” for a series of similar attacks in Illinois, John Willis was convicted and sentenced to 100 years. He served 8 1/2 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Chicago and Cook County paid him $2.5 million and the state $100,000 to settle his wrongful conviction lawsuit. In an ongoing series on forensic evidence, the Chicago Tribune saus that the behind-the-scenes drama of the case, revealed in documents the Tribune went to court to unseal, provides a rare look inside the often-closed culture of Illinois’ crime labs. The paper says it is a vivid example of how faulty lab practices can help convict the innocent.
Often, crime labs are places where mistakes, omissions, and a lack of rigor lead investigators down false trails that end in wrongful convictions. A Tribune investigation found that across the country, forensic science is being undermined by unproven theories and experts who testify in a misleading fashion. For years, the forensic scientist in the Willis case has been a focus of criticism by defense attorneys and state legislators because her testing has been at the center of two major wrongful conviction cases involving five men, three of whom still have lawsuits pending against her.