After more than two decades, evidence mounts of innocence

Print

Leonard Logan spent 22 years in prison for a 1997 shooting at a South Side gas station that left one man dead and another injured.

Eyewitnesses said a man emerged from the passenger side of an SUV around 11:00 p.m. on the night of March 18, 1997, and opened fire, killing Timothy Jones and injuring Charles Jenkins, who were using the pay phones outside the Amoco station at the corner of 75th Street and Yates Avenue.

Logan, who was finally released from prison last week on mandatory supervised release, has continued to maintain his innocence. He contends he was targeted by Chicago police officer Glenn Evans, who was one of the officers who arrested him. Now, new evidence has emerged pointing to someone else as the shooter.

Investigations that expose, influence and inform. Emailed directly to you.

Source

The primary evidence linking Logan to the crime was the grand jury testimony of Latonya Payton, a friend of Logan’s who said she had rented an SUV at his request. An eyewitness to the shooting had captured the license plate off the SUV from which the shooter emerged, and police traced the rental car back to Payton.

The eyewitness could not positively identify the shooter. Jenkins, the surviving victim, told police he was “positive” that Logan was not the man who shot him.

But after 36 hours of questioning during which she changed her story several times, Payton gave police Logan’s name. By the time of his trial, she had recanted and insisted police forced her into making the false accusation.

“The state should actually be seeking justice, not just continuing to prosecute,” Logan said in an interview about the new evidence in his case.

That evidence includes a new witness who testified at a February hearing that he was at the gas station and saw a man he knew named Kenneth Mosby commit the murder.

It includes 911 recordings that prosecutors belatedly found and turned over to Logan’s attorneys in which police dispatchers offer a description that appears to much more closely match Mosby than Logan.

It includes witnesses never called at trial who were prepared to testify that Logan was in Milwaukee, not Chicago, at the time Jones and Jenkins were shot.

And it includes Evans’s lengthy history of civilian complaints, which have been well-documented in the years since Logan’s conviction but were virtually unknown at the time.

Even before the new evidence, there were doubts about the strength of the prosecution case. When the Illinois Appellate Court panel upheld the verdict in 2004, dissenting judge John P. Tully wrote there was not enough evidence to have convicted Logan.

“I look at the evidence and see an uncorroborated statement that is inconsistent with other eye witness accounts; a statement given after more than 24 hours of interrogation; a statement taken after eight other versions were given,” Tully wrote. “I do not find any other evidence against the defendant.”

Suspect’s description matches someone else

A decade later, further reasons emerged to cast doubt on Logan’s guilt.

In fall 2014, a man named Erven Walls was chatting up Logan in the library at Dixon Correctional Center and asked him about the case that led to his incarceration. When Logan told Walls about the shooting, Walls said he realized that he had been there and knew who did it.

According to a sworn affidavit, Walls identified the shooter as a fellow gang member named Kenneth Mosby.

Prosecutors agreed to an evidentiary hearing over the new evidence, and Walls testified in February.

Mosby was an enforcer for the Gangster Disciples and he was also romantically involved with Latonya Payton, the renter of the SUV, according to Walls. Walls also said that Mosby’s nickname was “Dino,” the nickname of the man Payton had said asked her to rent the car. Multiple people have testified that Logan never went by that name.

Mosby was killed in May 2008 by a member of the Hobos street gang, according to records in a federal RICO case.

At the time of the shooting, Logan and Mosby did not look alike: Mosby was “a very short 17-18 year old” according to Walls, while Logan was 24 years old, 5’8”, and weighed between 205 and 230 pounds, according to differing police reports. (The Illinois Department of Corrections says he is even taller, listing his height as 6 feet.)

For years, Logan’s attorneys at the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School had been trying, without success, to obtain a copy of the original police radio dispatches to see what they might show. Then, earlier this year, the state announced it had finally located them: And they capture police putting out a flash alert describing the suspect as 5’7” and weighing 130 pounds — a description more suited to Mosby than Logan.

Logan has sought to pause the evidentiary hearing to add these tapes into evidence, but prosecutors responded that the information Logan seeks to introduce is not newly discovered, saying he relied on police reports at trial that includes the same information that can be heard on the recording.

Logan awaits a ruling on whether the tapes will be added into evidence.

“Mr. Logan has the best possible type of actual innocence claim – he wasn’t the shooter, and now numerous witnesses have described a shooter, and even identified a shooter, that is not Mr. Logan,” Exoneration Project attorney Tara Thompson contends in her pending motion to overturn the verdict.

“This was not a crime committed in secret – there were numerous witnesses,” the motion states. “And those witnesses support the defense.”

A possible alibi and a police “vendetta”

Logan has long contended he was in Milwaukee, not Chicago, at the time of the murder. At the time of trial two of Logan’s step-aunts who would have supported that alibi were in the courtroom, but not called by the defense.

One of them, Chevelle Thomas, said in a recent interview that she recalled that Logan had come to Milwaukee about that time for a celebration of her mother’s birthday. Logan’s trial attorneys testified in a post-conviction hearing that they decided as a tactical matter not to call Thomas or her sister, Princess.

Logan’s sister, Earlene Logan, has also testified in post-conviction hearings that she picked him up from court the day before the shooting and drove him to Milwaukee.

That court hearing was on criminal charges against Logan of aggravated assault on a police officer — Glenn Evans, then a tactical officer assigned to the city’s public housing projects. In November 1996, Evans shot Logan twice, first in the groin and then in an arm, after a foot chase up a stairwell at Stateway Gardens, the public housing complex where Logan lived.

According to Evans’s version of events, Logan had grabbed for Evans’s gun, so Evans punched him, recovered his gun, and shot him. But Logan contended that Evans had falsely arrested him and shot him without provocation. He filed a complaint over the incident and a federal lawsuit against Evans, which were both dismissed. But so were the assault charges against Logan.

Logan contends Evans had been harassing him for months before the shooting and that his arrest for the gas station shooting was part of a “vendetta” Evans had against him. Logan’s mother, Ezzie, said in a sworn affidavit that Evans was known around Stateway Gardens for harassing kids and had targeted her son on several occasions, telling her at one point, “I’m going to get your son, too.”

Evans was one of the officers who arrested Logan for the gas-station shooting and he testified on behalf of the state at Logan’s sentencing hearing.

Evans went on to become a commander in the department, but was the subject of repeated complaints of excessive force. He served a one-and-a-half year suspension and was demoted to lieutenant over allegations that he stuck a gun down a suspect’s throat in 2013, though he was acquitted of criminal charges related to the incident.

In the pending motion for a new trial, Logan’s attorneys contend the history of complaints against Evans — not known at the time — give further credibility to his claim.

Evans failed to respond to requests to comment.