$9M settlement completed in case of man exonerated of murder

AP News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2017 5:57 PM

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — A man exonerated in a killing for which he spent 15 years in prison has reached a $9 million settlement with investigators in northern Illinois.

Libertyville Village Administrator Chris Clark told the town's board on Tuesday that its insurance cooperative agreed to the settlement with Jason Strong.

"(T)his settlement is made to avoid the uncertainty of the outcome of litigation, the expense in time and money of further litigation and for the purpose of judicial economy," according to the agreement.

Strong was convicted in 2000 of killing Carpentersville resident Mary Kate Sunderlin. Her badly beaten body was found in a forest preserve near North Chicago in 1999. Lake County prosecutors dropped charges in 2015, citing evidence contradicting trial testimony.

Strong was cleared in 2015 after new pathologists' reports undermined crucial elements of authorities' account of the murder, including when the victim died and the nature of her wounds.

Strong received a certificate of innocence from the Lake County court in June 2016.

The lawsuit alleged that law enforcement officials from Waukegan and other members of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force conspired to wrongfully convict him, violating his due process rights and coercing a false confession through an "unconstitutional interrogation."

Strong now lives in Tennessee. He'll get $6 million from the city of Waukegan, a suburb of Chicago, while the remaining $3 million will be come from nine agencies that were part of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, which investigated the killing

"Jason is remarkably strong, remarkably resilient and very determined ... about putting this behind him and moving on," said Locke Bowman, the executive director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which handled Strong's lawsuit.