Brothers wrongly convicted decades ago receive certificates of innocence

CHICAGO — Justice finally arrived Tuesday for two brothers wrongly convicted of murder 30 years ago.

In 2021 the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dismissed the murder conviction against Sean Tyler and Reginald Henderson. The brothers served 27 years behind bars. They’ve been in a fight to clear their name since.

Both brothers say while their convictions were dismissed in 2021 it’s been hard to navigate life having their time in prison lingering in their background checks.

That all changed Tuesday.

Surrounded by family and friends a Cook County judge granted them a certificate of innocence giving them a clear path to move on with their lives.

“No one understands this feeling that it’s hard to put into words,” Tyler said.

According to their legal team, in 1994 the two brothers were taken to a police station where they were coerced and tortured by Chicago police detectives into giving a false confession.

“The certificate of innocence is a really powerful legal mechanism,” attorney Karl Leonard said. “It requires a judge in the same court that convicted you, the same building where you were found guilty and sent to prison, to say that not only were you not guilty, but the evidence also shows you were innocent.”

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For the two brothers this victory is bittersweet. Their mother is not alive to see what they say, she always knew in her heart was true.

“As good as it is to receive this certificate of innocence it hurts,” Tyler said. “It’s a hurting feeling to not have her here to see what she fought for, what she fought hard for many years, when no one would listen to her when she stressed that her kids were innocent.”

Now both men say they look forward to having a normal life and no longer worry about what could be brought up or flagged in a background check.

According to their legal teams both brothers have pending federal civil lawsuits for their wrongful convictions.

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