Wrongfully convicted of murder, Wayne Washington’s odyssey to clear his name still not over

CHICAGO (CBS) — Wayne Washington has been living in limbo. 

He got out of prison in 2007.  A few years later, his murder conviction was overturned–a conviction he’d been fighting for more than two decades.  

His slate was finally wiped clean.  

Or so he thought.

“They say, well, yeah, he’s not guilty, but he’s just not innocent,” Washington said.    

“It was a hard reality when I tried for a job position. They ran it back, and I didn’t pass the background check.”

Let’s rewind to May 17, 1993. 

A body of a man matching the description of a missing college student was found in the back seat of a car at 57th Street and Michigan Avenue.

Marshall Morgan, Jr., 20, a standout basketball player for the Illinois Institute of Technology, had been shot to death.

CBS 2 Vault: Mike Parker reports on the murder of Marshall Morgan Jr.:

CBS 2 Vault: Honor student Marshall Morgan Jr. found dead in car


CBS 2 Vault: John Davis reports on the investigation the following day:

CBS 2 Vault: Investigating the 1993 murder of Marshall Morgan Jr.


Investigators ended up zeroing in on two people. 

29-year-old Tyrone Hood, whose DNA was found on a bottle inside Morgan’s car, and 20-year-old Wayne Washington. 

Washington’s only connection to the case was that he offered an alibi for Hood. He said investigators didn’t listen to him.  

“They never asked me anything about an alibi,” Washington said. “Did I see him on this night?”

Police considered him a suspect, not a witness. 

Washington was interrogated by two detectives who have since been accused many times of beating confessions out of suspects. The two deny they ever beat anybody. 

He said he was beaten into signing a confession statement written by the detectives. 

Washington said he was labeled a “murderer, carjacker, armed robber, drug dealer, drug user, gang member, gang leader, you know, overnight.” 

In reality, he was none of those things. Jurors at his trial didn’t see it that way either. 

His trial ended in a hung jury, and he only went to prison because of a decision he made afterwards. 

His codefendant was convicted and sentenced to 75 years in prison for Morgan’s murder. 

So, Washington, fearing that kind of a sentence if convicted in a new trial, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years. 

“I calculated how much time I would have to do in the penitentiary,” he said. “I would have been 32 years old. So it wouldn’t be the life that I wanted to live. But I still have a chance at a life as opposed to 50-60-75 years later.”

Washington served his time and was released at the end of his sentence in 2007. 

And it was only after his release that his innocence became much more apparent. 

In 2013, the CBS 2 Investigators started looking into Marshall Morgan Sr.

That’s right, Marshall Morgan Jr.’s father.

Morgan Sr. took out a life insurance policy on his girlfriend a few months before her murder in 1995.

When she was killed, he collected $107,000.

He he had done the same thing for his son two years earlier. 

Morgan Sr. took out a $50,000 life insurance policy on Morgan Jr. right before he turned up dead. 

And the bottle with Washington’s and co-defendant Hood’s fingerprints?

Well, there was lots of random trash in the car. 

And Hood’s attorneys said that’s probably because Morgan Sr. was a janitor at the nearby high school — where he had access to lot of public trash. 

CBS 2 Vault: Investigator Dave Savini reports on what we learned about Marshall Morgan Sr. in 2013:

CBS 2 Vault: Families say bad work by authorities allowed man to keep killing


“Under any objective view, it was clear that the father killed his son for insurance money,” said Washington’s attorney, Steve Greenberg.  

So Washington’s conviction was wiped clean–like it never happened. 

“When they overturned a conviction and say that I wasn’t guilty of this crime, that felt like a major accomplishment,” Washington said. “But it’s only half of accomplishment when you punch me up in the computer or you Google search for me, and this is what comes up.”

Washington’s background check still shows his conviction because he doesn’t have a certificate of innocence. 

Basically it’s one more step — that indicates you never should have had a record to begin with. 

Hood got one. 

But Washington did not. After appealing that decision — the First District Appellate court said that it was because back in 1993 he  pleaded guilty.

“I don’t have the certificate,” Washington said. “It’s local obstacle right now. If you run a background check on me a couple of days ago, just to be a chaperone at my daughter’s school for a field trip. And I can’t do it because I can’t pass a background check because this is still on my record.”

It’s hard to imagine — fighting for your innocence, your life, your reputation and getting as far as Washington has over the last 29 years only to hit the biggest roadblock yet. 

He wants to work. He wants a good job. 

But can you blame hiring managers for doing a double take when they see a murder on his record?

“I just don’t understand you’re not guilty, but in our eyes you’re not innocent,” Washington said. 

Washington and his legal team have pressed the issue all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Because he is not alone. 

In recent years, Illinois has consistently lead the nation in wrongful convictions. 

According to a 2020 case, 18% of all exonerees pleaded guilty. 

CBS 2 has learned that the Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to take up Washington’s case. His petition for a certificate of innocence — and the ruling in that case could have implications on the cases of other exonerees here in Illinois. 

We will, of course, be watching that case closely.