According to the National Registry of Exonerations, between January 1, 2023, and January 31, 2024, there were 50 exonerations nationwide in fifteen states and one from the federal system. Illinois led the way with nine exonerations, while New York and Texas followed with 8 and 6 exonerations, respectively.


Interestingly, all six Texas exonerations came out of Harris County and involved criminal misconduct by one of the Houston Police Department’s most notoriously corrupt officers, Gerald Goines. Two years ago, we posted these observations about Goines and the criminal “Squad 15” narcotics unit he was a part of:


On January 28, 2019, the Houston Police Department staged a militarized “no-knock” raid on a residence located at 7815 Harding Street. When the police gunfire ended, all the occupants in the residence lay dead: 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle, Rhogena Nicholas, and their dog. The raid became infamously known as the Harding Street Raid.


The public facts about the raid are now well-known. Former Houston Police Department (HPD) officer Gerald Goines knowingly gave a court false information to obtain the no-knock warrant used in the raid. A second HPD officer, Steven Bryant, corroborated that false information. Both officers swore that a non-existent informant supposedly controlled by Goines had made a heroin purchase at the Harding Street residence, justifying the search.


An ensuring investigation of the Harding Street Raid led to state and federal charges being lodged against Goines and Bryant, including two capital murder charges against Goines. That investigation expanded from the Harding Street Raid to cover the HPD’s infamous Narcotics Division’s Squad 15—a narcotics investigative unit that had accumulated a reputation as a “criminal organization” that terrorized city residents for years, mostly in communities of color, with perjured no-knock raid warrants and unfounded search warrants.


The following is a list of the six innocent Harris County residents framed by Goines and Squad 15—each of whom were identified in 2020 by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office framed by Goines and his cohorts.


  • Terrence Spriggs: a 23-year-old charged and later convicted in connection with delivery of cocaine in November 2012. He was exonerated in October 2023.
  • Damain McGinnis: a 24-year-old charged and later convicted in connection with delivery of controlled substance in October 2013. He was exonerated in November 2023.
  • Cedric Woods: a 44-year-old charged and convicted in connection with delivery of a controlled substance in March 2013. He was exonerated in September 2023.
  • Joyce Coby: a 39-year-old charged and later convicted in connection with delivery of a controlled substance in May 2013. Her case was dismissed on December 21, 2023, after the Court of Criminal Appeals granted her writ of habeas corpus.
  • Harry Gradney: a 25-year-old charged and later convicted in connection with delivery of cocaine in June 2015. He was exonerated in November 2023.
  • MacArthur Ross: 40-year-old charged and later convicted in connection with delivery of cocaine in January 2019. He was exonerated in November 2023. 


By the end of 2021, there had already been 160 dismissals of narcotics cases tied to Goines and Squad 15.


It is no coincidence that while the Houston Police Department’s Squad 15 was terrorizing the streets of Houston and framing its citizens, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) was doing the same thing. One of the oldest organized police forces in the world, the CPD has a long history of sordid misconduct, which includes:


  • The systematic torture of African-American suspects between 1972-1991
  • Officers involved in drug dealing conspiracies;
  • Officers involved in wide ranging jewelry theft rings;
  • Officers involved in burglary/home invasion rings;
  • Officers operating an off-the-books secret warehouse for interrogation/torture of suspects;
  • Officers framing innocent suspects by beating confessions out of them;
  • Scores of unlawful arrests of innocent citizens; and
  • Hundreds of killings of unarmed suspects.


This disgraceful history of corruption and unlawful violent, criminal activity prompted a January 2017 report by the U.S. Justice Department finding that the CPD has a history of excessive violence against the general public, especially in African-American communities.


One of those lawless CPD officers was Sgt. Ronald Watts, who, in 2011, was a Wentworth District tactical sergeant assigned to police a massive Southside impoverished public housing complex in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Watts and at least one other officer, Kallatt Mohammed, were involved in a long-running operation of shaking down drug dealers. An FBI sting operation ensnared the two officers taking money from a drug dealer in October 2011.


Mohammed pled guilty in the summer of 2012 and received an 18-month sentence in a federal prison. 


In October 2013, Watts was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman told him: “You were a sergeant operating in a community that should hold you up as an example. You needed to protect those people, and you didn’t.”


The Watts/Mohammed cases still haunt the CPD, just as Goines and Squad 15 still haunt the Houston Police Department. It is far past time for both cities to reform their police operations to reduce bad cops going rogue and prevent wrongful arrests and convictions.