Innocence Blog

Help Bennie Starks Get a Full Exoneration

Posted: August 8, 2012 5:20 pm




By Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin
 
In May, Bennie Starks was exonerated of a 1986 rape conviction after DNA evidence showed that he could not have been the perpetrator. Yet the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office is fighting efforts to exonerate him of a battery conviction from the same crime. Write the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office and ask them to vacate the battery charge against Bennie Starks.
 
Bennie Starks’ case was one of the first that I took on as an Innocence Project Staff Attorney in 2000. I could never have imagined that we would face such extreme adversity. Just when we thought his quarter-century struggle might be over, prosecutors stunned us again.
 
At a hearing in March, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges on the rape conviction. This summer, however, we were dismayed to learn that the prosecution intends to continue to defend a battery charge from the same incident, even after an appeals court issued a ruling saying that the DNA evidence undermines this conviction as well. The victim, now deceased, testified that she was attacked and raped by the same man. The DNA that proves Bennie’s innocence of the rape, proves that he is innocent of the battery too.
 
The Chicago Tribune quotes Bennie saying that this is “just another stall tactic.” He’s right. Bennie’s case shows the extraordinary power of the prosecution to delay, or deny, justice in a case. I’ve been fighting for justice for Bennie for 12 years, but Bennie’s been fighting even longer. Half of his life has been caught up in this wrongful conviction case. Until he’s vindicated, he remains convicted of a felony that he didn’t commit, meaning that he cannot file for state compensation, get his record expunged or clear his name.
 
Please join me in urging Lake County Prosecutors Office to vacate the battery conviction and allow Bennie to finally be exonerated.
 
Bennie Starks is also represented by Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and by local attorneys Jed Stone, John Curnyn and Lauren Kaeseberg, a former Cardozo clinic student, and Ron Safer, partner at Schiff Harden LLP, along with Associate Brooke Schaefer.




Tags: Illinois, Bennie Starks