Pardoned in murders, man sues Peoria for coerced confession

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Johnnie L. Savory, photo courtesy of Center on Wrongful Convictions.

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois man who maintains police coerced him into making a false confession to a double murder is suing the city of Peoria and its police department.

Attorneys for Johnnie Lee Savory filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Chicago. They say Peoria police coerced a false confession from Savory when he was 14 after 31 hours of “abusive and illegal interrogation.” The suit claims the city destroyed evidence and that recent DNA testing rules out Savory as a suspect.

According to Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, the only evidence other than the illegally obtained confession  testimony was inconclusive. It included the alleged murder weapon—a knife found in Savory’s possession bearing then non-testable trace amounts of blood; a pair of bloodstained pants several sizes too large for Savory seized from his home; and several hairs found at the murder scene said to microscopically resemble Savory’s hair.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn pardoned Savory in 2015.

Savory is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the nearly 30 years he spent in prison for the killings of 19-year-old Connie Cooper and 14-year-old James Robinson.

Peoria’s legal department did not immediately respond to requests to comment on the case.