Image: R Eugene Pincham
Charles Bennett  /  AP file
Attorney R. Eugene Pincham hands out police reports on the 7- and 8-year-old boys who were charged with killing Ryan Harris, 11, in Chicago on Aug. 20, 1998.
updated 4/3/2008 9:20:30 PM ET 2008-04-04T01:20:30

R. Eugene Pincham, a longtime civil rights attorney who helped win a multimillion-dollar settlement after two young boys were falsely accused of killing an 11-year-old girl, has died. He was 82.

His son, Robert Eugene Pincham Jr., said his father died Thursday after a long illness.

Pincham, who was also a former judge and made a run for mayor in 1991, was one of the most well-known attorneys in the city and a vocal critic of police and the courts.

His clients included one of two boys falsely accused in the 1998 bludgeoning death of 11-year-old Ryan Harris. The case made headlines across the country because the boys were only 7 and 8 when police accused them of murdering the girl.

Charges against the boys were dropped after crime lab tests found semen in Ryan's clothing. A convicted sex offender eventually pleaded guilty, and the families of the boys reached settlements with the city, one for $6.2 million and the other for $2 million.

Pincham also represented Anthony Porter, a former death row inmate who spent more than 16 years in prison for a double murder he didn't commit.

"He stood up for the little man, he refused to quit, he challenged the system to make it better for all people," his son said.

Pincham spent more than a decade on the bench, as a Cook County Criminal Courts judge and as a state appellate court judge.

He unsuccessfully challenged Mayor Richard M. Daley when Daley — who is still the city's mayor — sought his first full term in 1991. Daley had won a special election after Harold Washington, a friend of Pincham's and the city's only black mayor, died in 1987.

Born in Chicago, Pincham was raised in Alabama by his mother, who moved there after a divorce. He eventually graduated from Northwestern University's law school.

"He endured segregation, racism, extreme poverty," said the younger Pincham.

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