Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ill. inmate who claimed torture exults in release

CHESTER, Ill. – Imprisoned for life for a double killing after what he said was a coerced confession, Eric Caine spent years behind bars quietly wishing he had been condemned to death instead.

Had that been the case, the 45-year-old Caine figures he would have been freed about eight years ago, when a former governor emptied Illinois' death row and pardoned four of those inmates — including the man tried alongside him for the stabbing of an elderly Chicago couple.

After pressing for years to get his case re-examined, Caine finally walked out of prison and into the sunshine Thursday after more than two decades of incarceration.

A judge had ordered his release a day earlier, the same day the former police commander Caine accused of threatening him with a gun reported to a federal prison for lying about the torture of suspects.

"Let me breathe the air — I just want to enjoy this moment right now," Caine said after strolling out of Menard Correctional Center, the maximum-security lockup near the Mississippi River, about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis.

Wearing jeans, a multicolored striped shirt and shoes provided by his attorney, Caine brought out with him what little he had — a Bible and family pictures. He said he craved oxtail stew, hopes to find a job, start a ministry and marry girlfriend Sara Bush, whom he met while her grandson was doing time at Menard.


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