A federal jury awarded $27 million Thursday to a man who spent more than two decades in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a double-fatal arson attack as a teenager, finding that Chicago police coerced his confession, fabricated evidence and violated his civil rights.

As the verdict was announced in US District Judge Edmund Chang’s courtroom, plaintiff Adam Gray bowed his head and leaned against his attorney, John Loewy, who hugged his shoulders.

Afterwards, Loew told reporters that Gray’s life has been “immeasurably damaged” by the ordeal, but that he is trying to get his life back on track.

“Adam was arrested before breakfast, he closed the case before noon, and was home early for dinner,” Lowery said in the lobby of the Dirksen US Courthouse. “It took 24 years for the system to sort it out.”

Gray issued a brief statement saying, “These dirty cops need to stop.”

“It’s out of control,” he said. “Break that blue wall of silence.”

Gray then left the courthouse while the news conference was still underway and went to a nearby hotel where he was staying.

The $27 million in compensatory damages awarded by the jury appears to be the highest ever awarded to a single plaintiff in a wrongful conviction case, down from $25.2 million. Handed over to Eddie Bolden for his wrongful murder conviction in 2021.

The jury found in favor of Daniel McInerney, a surviving police detective named in the lawsuit, awarding no punitive damages.

A spokeswoman for the city’s law department had no immediate comment.

Gray, who was arrested at just 14 years old and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without parole, died in May 2017 after Cook County prosecutors decided that advances in fire science had contributed to his conviction for starting the fire in 1993. Raised a lot of questions about what led to the death. Two guys on the Southwest Side of Chicago.

His 54-page lawsuit, filed five years ago, named the city of Chicago as well as former Chicago police detectives, a youth officer, a retired Cook County assistant state’s attorney and a former fire marshal.

The suit alleged detectives “fabricated and coerced” a false confession from Gray after hours of illegal interrogation, while refusing to allow him to see his mother and brother, who were trying to talk to him at the station. Instead, the detectives told Gray that his mother told him “she didn’t care about him and flatly refused to come to the police station,” the suit alleges.

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Police and prosecutors alleged that at the time of the fire, Gray was upset with a girl who lived in the two flats in the 4100 block of South Albany Avenue because she had rejected him. According to investigators at the time, the eighth-grader ignited an axon on the enclosed back porch and stairs on the second floor. While the girl and her parents survived, second-floor tenants, Peter McGuiness, 54, and his sister, Margaret Mesa, 74, died.

At Gray’s trial, prosecutors focused on evidence that the fire was intentionally set and a confession from Gray. Two fire investigators said they found grizzly charring and deep burn patterns at the scene and concluded they were evidence of a hot fire with an accelerant. A milk jug found in the alley behind the house contained what police believed was an accelerant. A gas station clerk said that Gray had purchased gas shortly before the fire.

In a statement to the police, Gray admitted to buying gasoline to start the fire, but later denied the confession, saying that he only confessed under pressure from the interrogating officers. Gray’s lawyer said he was questioned for seven hours and could not handle the pressure.

The lawsuit alleges that during the interrogation the police “obtained” an empty milk jug and fabricated the story of Gray filling it with gas. Tests showed there was no gasoline or gas residue in or on the jug, the lawsuit says.

Grey’s road to getting the charges against him dismissed was a long one. While advances in fire science date to the early 1990s, Gray was convicted, it took years for investigators to adapt to those changes. Instead they continued to investigate fires using methods learned from experienced colleagues or gathered from their own experience, even though the practices were not rooted in science.

Today, those new rules are widely accepted by fire investigators, resulting in prosecutors and defense attorneys across the country reopening old cases to determine whether the fires at their center were actually arson. Many have been proven guilty.

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