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Clerk’s Error Frees Man Held In Killing

May 3, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ A man convicted of repeatedly stabbing his girlfriend has been freed because a court clerk’s error prevented a quick retrial after his murder conviction was overturned, prosecutors say.

Henry L. Thomas, 32, was ordered freed from Stateville Correctional Center by Cook County Circuit Judge James Schreier, who ruled Thursday that the state’s attorney’s office had violated Thomas’ right to a speedy retrial.

The Illinois Appellate Court last fall reversed Thomas’ conviction, ruling that a confession was obtained illegally.

Defense attorneys argued that the state’s attorney’s office had not retried Thomas within 120 days of the date that the Circuit Court clerk’s office had received notice confirming that his murder conviction had been reversed.

The state cannot allow a prisoner ″to sit in the penitentiary until someone in the state’s attorny’s ofice decides it’s time for a new trial,″ said defense attorney Bruce Mosbacher.

Thomas was accused of repeatedly stabbing Dorothy Terrell, 27, and dumping her body in a forest preserve in 1978.

″I just feel justice wasn’t served,″ said Ms. Terrell’s niece, Dakota Robertson, who sat in the courtroom and listened to the decision to free Thomas.

Prosecutors have filed a notice of appeal of Schreier’s ruling, saying Thomas wasn’t retried in time because of ″a court clerk error that shouldn’t be held against us,″ said Robert Raab, an assistant state’s attorney.

The clerk lost Thomas’ file, leaving the state’s attorney’s office unaware of the appellate court decision, Raab said.

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