Local law-enforcement officials have reopened an investigation into the 2007 killing of an inmate at Cook County Jail after a Tribune article last fall questioned the thoroughness of the initial probe and cited evidence linking the victim's cellmate to the death.
John Lambert was found unconscious in his cell with massive head injuries on June 26, 2007, his 25th birthday. After he died 12 days later, the pathologist concluded that Lambert had been beaten to death and declared it a homicide.The case seemed to be an easy one. Lambert had a lone cellmate the night of his fatal injuries, and several inmates saw and heard the two quarreling in the days and hours before Lambert suffered the head injuries.
But the cellmate, David Jamison, 55, was never charged in the death. Shortly after Lambert's death, Jamison told investigators that Lambert's injuries resulted from a fall from the top bunk in their cell. He declined to take a polygraph test.
Jamison is held in County Jail while awaiting retrial for a rape conviction.
Officials at the Cook County state's attorney's office and sheriff's office confirmed the reopened investigation but declined to comment further.
"We cannot say at this point if charges will be filed, only that we are reviewing the details of the case," said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.
Lambert's mother, Susan, expressed gratitude that authorities are looking again at her son's death.
"I just want some resolution and some answers," she said.
Lambert's death was among numerous examples cited last summer in a scathing Justice Department report that found violence rampant in County Jail, the nation's largest.
A Tribune investigation into Lambert's death also raised questions about why Lambert, who had only a minor criminal record and never spent time in state prison, was housed in one of the jail's maximum-security divisions with a dangerous cellmate.
One inmate who was housed near Lambert and Jamison said he met with a prosecutor and jail investigator last month and agreed to testify in the case.
The name of the inmate, who is still housed in the jail, is being withheld for his safety. He wrote that about two months after Lambert's death, he overheard Jamison describe to several inmates how "he had punched Lambert in the back of the head ... and 'beat his brains in.'"
"He bragged about how he had 'taught that snot-nosed little white-boy a lesson,'" according to a letter the inmate wrote in October, addressed to the state's attorney and recently sent to the Tribune.