Chicago, Ill – A Chicago man who spent nearly twenty years in jail for a 2003 murder has been released years after his identical twin brother confessed to the crime.
In March 2003, a gunman opened fire on three people in a Chicago neighborhood, killing Antwan Carter and wounding Ronnie Bolden.
Bolden later identified Kevin Dugar in a photo lineup as the shooter and in 2005 Dugar was sentenced to 54 years in prison.
For years Dugar maintained his innocence, even turning down a plea deal that would have carried a much shorter 11-year prison sentence.
It wasn’t until almost 10 years into his sentence that his twin brother confessed to the shooting.
Dugar’s twin brother, Karl Smith, admitted to having carried out the murder in a confession that was first made in a letter to Dugar in 2013.
Smith’s confession didnt initially impact Dugar’s case. In 2018 a judge concluded that his confession was not credible and declined to offer Dugar a new trial. Prosecutors questioned Smith’s motives, telling the judge that he only came forward after he had been denied an appeal himself and was serving a 99-year sentence for a home invasion that left a child shot in the head.
Ronald Safer, a lawyer with the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, took Dugar’s case back to court and in 2021 the Illinois Court of Appeals overturned the decision.
On Tuesday, Dugar was granted bond and assigned to a residential transition facility.
An emotional Dugar broke down into tears as he was released from the Cook County jail on Tuesday night and reunited with his loved ones as a free man, Safer told NBC News on Friday.
“The judge granted his release pending trial on a signature bond and he walked out into the open air and breathed his first breaths as a free man in almost 20 years,” Safer said. “It was gratifying to watch his tears roll down his cheeks and their cheeks before (their tears) froze on their faces because it was about 7 below.”
Cook County authorities must now decide whether to put Dugar on trial again or drop charges.