CHICAGO — Lawyers for the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project on Monday filed petitions in Cook County Circuit Court seeking the release of two men serving life sentences for a 1994 rape and murder.

The petition contends new forensic testing shows DNA from the victim’s underwear matches that of a serial rapist who is not in custody. The petition did not name the man.

Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton were convicted in 1997 in the rape and murder of Antwinica Bridgeman. The woman celebrated her 20th birthday at a gathering of friends, including Coleman. She disappeared that night and was discovered weeks later in Coleman’s basement.

Both the then 25-year-old Coleman and 27-year-old Fulton confessed to the crime. The two later said their confessions were coerced.

Coleman’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth, said Coleman discovered the body and was later arrested in the middle of the night and interrogated for hours. Ainsworth said his client also alleges he was beaten while being questioned.

Court records show at the time of the slaying, Coleman worked as a member of the grounds keeping crew at the baseball stadium Comiskey Park, now called Guaranteed Rate Field. Fulton lived near Coleman in the Englewood neighborhood.

Coleman had no criminal history until his arrest.

“It boggles my mind that Coleman all of a sudden, at the age of 25, participated in this horrific rape and murder, it just doesn’t happen,” said Ainsworth.

Fulton is represented by Kathleen Zellner, who has been involved in several other wrongful conviction cases.

Ainsworth asked Judge Dennis Porter, who presided over the original trial of Coleman and Fulton, to release Coleman on bond while the state waits for the results of additional DNA tests.

Mark Rotert of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit said the office remains uncertain about the claims and asked for more time to gather facts. Porter set a hearing on the petition for Aug. 18.

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