16 years after conviction in West Side killing, man asks to be freed, as co-defendant was

man in prison for a fatal robbery on the West Side is asking a Cook County judge to toss out his conviction, saying in a petition Thursday he should be freed as his co-defendant Xavier Walker was.

Jovanie Long, 41, says Chicago police detectives roughed him up to extract a false confession to the 2000 shooting and that his trial lawyer made errors in representing him, including failing to enter photos of his injuries into evidence and not calling witnesses to support his alibi.

“The conviction of Mr. Long and Mr. Walker rested entirely on the credibility of the officers and whether the court believed the signed false confessions of both men,” said Long’s attorney, Jarrett Adams, who is seeking a new trial for Long.

To bolster Long’s request, former assistant public defender John Conniff, who was his trial lawyer, signed an affidavit Tuesday saying he never investigated Long’s claims that detectives abused him.

Conniff, who has retired as an attorney, also said he never used those claims to try to block Long’s confession from being used at trial.

Long and Walker were convicted in a 2004 bench trial. They were found guilty of killing 29-year-old Marek Madjak during a robbery at 1:10 a.m. on May 13, 2000, in the 4700 block of West Ohio Street. Madjak was found face-down six feet from his van with his pockets emptied in an area known for prostitution, police said.

They said Long was the shooter and Walker the lookout.

Long was sentenced to 45 years in prison, and Walker got 35 years.

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Xavier Walker.

Walker, 40, was freed a year ago after arguing that he was framed and coerced to make a false confession.

Cook County prosecutors agreed to vacate his conviction in July 2019 but left open the possibility of retrying him. Then, they surprised Walker’s attorneys in December 2019 when they dropped the case, and he walked out of prison.

Long says he was at home with his family in Bellwood at the time of the killing and that he met Walker and other friends at a club on the West Side about an hour after the shooting.

The police said a witness told them Walker confided in him that Long was responsible for the killing. The witness, Maurice Wright, later recanted his statement during Long’s and Walker’s trials, which were held simultaneously before Judge Marcus Salone.

In June, Wright signed an affidavit saying he doesn’t know who killed Madjak.

In his new court filing, Long said he has a list of 11 people who could testify that the detectives who questioned him also abused those people during unrelated interrogations.

Walker has filed a wrongful-conviction lawsuit in federal court against the city, Cook County, the detectives who handled his case and others.

“Arrested at the age of 19, Xavier was forced to live in a cage and serve out a punishment for crimes he did not commit for the next 19 years of his life,” according to his lawsuit, which was filed Sunday.

*story by Chicago Sun-Times