Man Who Spent Nearly 20 Years In Prison For Murder Released After His Identical Twin Confesses

“I have to get it off my chest before it kills me,” Karl Smith wrote in a letter to his incarcerated brother, Kevin Dugar.

February 04, 2022
(L-R) Kevin Dugar and Karl Smith mugshots

(L-R) Kevin Dugar and Karl Smith

Photo by: Illinois Department of Corrections

Illinois Department of Corrections

(L-R) Kevin Dugar and Karl Smith

By: Aaron Rasmussen

An Illinois man who spent almost two decades behind bars in connection to a fatal shooting in 2003 was released because his identical twin brother confessed to committing the crime.

On the evening of Jan. 25, Kevin Dugar, who was serving a 54-year sentence for first-degree murder, was freed from the Cook County Jail in Chicago, television station WLS reported.

Karl Smith first admitted in 2013 that he — not his brother, Dugar — fired the shots that killed a rival gang member and wounded another man in Chicago 10 years earlier.

“I have to get it off my chest before it kills me,” Smith wrote in a letter to his incarcerated twin. “So I’ll just come clean and pray you can forgive me.”

In 2016, he again claimed responsibility for the murder, this time in court. “I'm here to confess to a crime I committed that he was wrongly accused of,” Smith testified, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A judge ruled the confession was “completely uncredible” since Smith was already in prison serving a 99-year sentence for a 2008 home invasion that ended with a 6-year-old boy shot in the head.

A lawyer with Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Northwest Center of Wrongful Convictions took up 44-year-old Dugar’s case, paving the way for the Court of Appeals to review the evidence and agree that Dugar should be released on bond.

“This case is in a very different situation than it was 20 years ago,” said Dugar’s attorney, Ron Safer. “Everybody knows much more about it.”

Dugar could still be tried for the fatal shooting if the Cook County State's Attorney's Office decides to pursue a new trial.

“We are hopeful that the state’s attorney will drop the case against Kevin and then do what they will, but drop the case against Kevin because he’s innocent,” Safer said, adding, “It’s clear that he’s innocent, but if they persist, we will go to trial and we will vindicate him at trial.”

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