Murder Suspect James Ealy Was Previously Convicted Of Murder But His Conviction Was Reversed In 1986

James Ealy, the suspect in last week's strangulation murder of Mary Hutchison, was convicted over 20 years ago for the strangulation murders of Kristina Parker, Mary Anne Parker, Cora Parker and Jontae Parker. Each  victim had died as a result of ligature strangulation. Detectives found a bundle of clothing under Ealy's bed, including green cloth similar to that found around Mary Ann Parker's neck, a knife handle that matched a blade found in the victims' apartment, bed sheets with red stains and a child's sweater. Shortly after being confronted with this evidence, Ealy confessed to strangling the victims after they "made fun of his red eyes." Ealy brought a motion to suppress his confession, claiming he was denied food, water and sleep and that he confessed because he "couldn't take it" any more. This motion was denied. Ealy elected not to testify at trial and he was convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to natural life imprisonment by Judge Thomas J. Maloney. But, in 1986, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, reversed his conviction and ordered a new trial. On appeal, the State conceded that no probable cause to arrest Ealy existed at the time he was first taken from his residence by detectives. However, the State argued that Ealy was not "seized" at that time so as to require probable cause. The court disagreed, stating that Ealy was continuously interrogated over an 18-hour period, during which he was denied food and water and only given one bathroom break. The court held that "a reasonable, innocent person in defendant's position would not have believed he was free to leave." The court further stated that "We also find that the unconstitutional misconduct of the police was a purposeful expedition for evidence in the hope of obtaining sufficient information upon which to predicate the probable cause necessary for defendant's arrest." The court went on to hold that "since the police lacked probable cause to arrest defendant at the time they took him from his residence, which the State concedes, we hold that defendant was illegally seized in violation of the fourth amendment." The opinion was written by Justice James C. Murray and joined by justices R. Eugene Pincham and Francis Lorenz. On appeal, Ealy was represented by Jenner & Block attorneys Robert L. Graham and Randall E. Mehrberg.