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Mark Clements Case: The Minor Who Never Gave Up

Minors could not get the death penalty, but they could get life in prison without parole. Here’s the story of how Mark Clements ended up behind bars and how he got out. Mark Clements was only 16-years-old when the Chicago police officers beat and tortured him during his time in the interrogation room here at the Area Three in 1981. In the result of Clements getting beaten, he ultimately signed a fabricated confession to an arson charge that ultimately killed four innocent people. Due to Clements age, he was protected from getting the death penalty, but he ended up getting sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Police Tortured Mike Clements

Clements recounted how a police officer known as John McCann had an amazing way of getting his knuckles into some of the tenderest parts of Clements’s bones. Clements recounted how McCann would scream at him and beat on his chest. He stated that He felt as if McCann had at least 100 pounds on him.

At this time of the interrogation, Clements could barely, if even that read. Clements did not even finish the seventh grade, but he had enough street smart to know what the cops were truly after. Clements knew the cops were after a confession when it came to the arson situation that happened at 6600 S. Wentworth just a week earlier.

The Chicago police officers were beating on Clements for nearly a half-hour, and Clements still refused to say anything. Clements was in enough fights in his day to be able to withstand the beating he was receiving from the Chicago police officers.

Clements remained silent and refused to give a confession, even as the welts were getting bigger on his chest from the officer’s hands cracking Clements’s bones. When the police officers finally stopped hitting him, that is when McCann grabbed Clements balls and squeezed them. Clements recounted that was the most painful thing he has ever experienced before. Clements stated that there was only one thing he could do to get McCann to stop this torture.

This is when Clements stated that he would cooperate with them because the pain was so unbearable. Clements recounted that night that happened over 30 years ago like it was yesterday. On June 26, 1981, around 2 am, Clements would sign a fabricated confession about the arson that happened at 6600 S. Wentworth just a week earlier that killed four people.

Just a year and a half after Clements signed that fabricated confession, he would be sentenced to four consecutive life sentences and be known as one of the youngest people in the history of Illinois to receive a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

Set Up At 16

During the summer of 1981, Mark Clements, who was 16 years old at the time, was in desperate need of some parental guidance direction. Clements at the time was living a life that was going to have him end up yet another statistic of the streets of Chicago’s Southeast side.

Clements did not attend school regularly for the last two-ish years. To be honest, Clements only had a seventh-grade education, and he could not read much. Clements spent most of his downtime loitering around his neighborhood.

A Turning Point for Those with the Death Penalty

Within the early 2000s, that’s when the turning point for those who dealt with the Chicago police saw some home. In the year 2000, the courts had to overturn the conviction of Anthony Porter. George Ryan, who was the governor at the time, had to place a hold on the death penalty in Illinois. Ryan had no other choice when one case lead to a few more death penalty cases whose confessions were all fabricated, and torture was used to get to these confessions.

When estimated, there was at least 200 other inmate who was serving out sentences because of these tortured confessions as well. Clements was one of these inmates.

The interrogating officers John McWeeny and John McCann were indicting in the Burge’s torture ring that was investigated by the Cook County Circuit Court Judge, Paul Biebel. This was all said and done in 2002.

Despite the community outrage, Mark Clements was still not free or even on the path to freedom.

Clements was always represented by the public defender’s office because he or his family did not have the financial means to do their own investigation and even gather evidence to help overturn his conviction. This made Clements wait and wait for the day where he could get the adequate representation, he needed to help overturn his conviction.

That day finally came in 2007. This is when Bernadine Dohrn, a Professor at Northwestern University, went to visit Clements. Dohrn was doing a paper on youth inmates that had sentences of their natural life (Meaning no chance for parole). Dohrn interviewed over a hundred youth inmates all throughout the nation. Following her interview with Clements, she was very convinced that he was innocent. Dohrn went back to her friends at Northwestern Law and asked them for help in the Clements case. This is when the friends looked through the case of Clements, and they reached out to Skadden Arps, a mega law firm who had the resources and experience to give Clements a proper defense team.

Skadden Arps tested the evidence for DNA, hired a private investigator, and had a pretty solid defense story. All of this ended up working out in the end for Clements. Clements was released after serving 28 years in prison in August of 2009.

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