Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Christy Gutowski reports on the case of Kevin Liszka in an article titled, “‘The perfect mark.'” Excerpt:
As Kevin Liszka sat in a police department holding cell for three days, he remained confident authorities would realize they had the wrong man.
Instead, police hauled Liszka off to the DuPage County jail on the fourth day after a trail of evidence, including witness identification, led back to him.
“I just started crying,” the Bolingbrook man said. “I said, ‘You’re all wrong. You guys are making a big mistake.'”
Police said Liszka was one of three assailants who burglarized a city official’s residence in Warrenville in a violent home invasion that involved rape. The crime shook the close-knit community to its core.
From the onset, the 20-year-old man proclaimed his innocence. Forty-two days later, prosecutors confirmed he had been telling the truth. They cleared Liszka after charging the final of three suspects.
The case is just one example of the fallibility of the criminal justice system — a system in which innocent people are sometimes caught in the middle. It also is the reason eyewitness testimony, long a trusted fixture in the courtroom, has come under increasing attack.
Liszka, though, had a lot more than mistaken identity working against him. A pizza delivery, police sketch, failed lie-detector test and a shaky reputation with police also played a role.
Liszka said he understands why innocent people confess. The interrogations, at times, grew heated. At one point, authorities warned they were giving him one last chance to come clean.
“They told me if there’s no deal now, there will never be one,” he said. “At that point, considering I was facing 40 years in prison, I was almost thinking about admitting to something I didn’t do.”