Governor Quinn made some bold moves on Monday as he left office. So was it the intention of out going Gov. Pat Quinn to send a message about race relations between the police and black men when he granted 43 clemency petitions, including two commutations that will lead to freedom for convicted murderers whose appeals had been stuck in the courts in spite of mounting evidence of their innocence?
The standout cases are those of Howard Morgan whose sentence was commuted after being convicted of attempted murder following a shootout with Chicago police and granted pardons to one of former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s alleged torture victims as well as to a former Peoria County man who spent three decades in prison for a double murder before being paroled.
Quinn’s pardons hardly compare to the dramatic emptying of Death Row of former Gov. George Ryan’s as he left office in January 2003. Still Quinn’s clemencies were nonetheless bold, and sparked intense criticism. It is clear that Quinn acted on cases in which prosecutors had opposed relief, though in one case – that of Tyrone Hood – Cook County prosecutors have been conducting a lengthy investigation of Hood’s innocence claims.
Comparatively to other governors, Quinn took the riskier route by commuting sentences and setting inmates free. To some it appears that Quinn took his clemency powers seriously and “done yeoman’s work.”
“Governors who commute sentences definitely exhibit a willingness to make a gutsy call,however Quinn’s move is in keeping with how he has used his clemency powers during his time in office.
Of course the Cook County State’s Attorney top prosecutor Anita Alvarez expressed deep disappointment by the commutations and called the clemency process a “secretive maneuver that puts the rights of victims of crime and their families at the bottom of the list of priorities.”
The spokeswoman, Sally Daly, implied that Quinn failed to allow for “substantive hearings” where prosecutors and victims’ families could speak and potentially affect his decisions. Daly said prosecutors were “left completely without explanation how or why these convicted criminals were selected” to get relief. But here’s the deal he didn’t have to explain. He is completely within his legal purvue.
Hood, 51, was serving a 50-year sentence for the 1993 shooting death of Marshall Morgan Jr., an Illinois Institute of Technology basketball standout. Hood who has always maintained his innocence and without hesitation told police that they should have looked at the young man’s father more carefully. Of course they did not notice the pattern that Marshall Morgan Sr. had established by taking out insurance polices on both his son and fiancée who ended up dead shortly after.
Past news coverage has reported linkage to Morgan’s father. Marshall Morgan Sr. was convicted of manslaughter in the 1977 shooting death of a friend who owed him money. He was questioned in the death of his son in large part because, in the months before his son was slain, he was struggling financially and took out a life insurance policy on his son. He was a suspect two years later in the murder of his fiancée, whose life he also insured. That’s more than a coincidence. However, he was never formally charged in the deaths of his son or fiancée.
He was charged and convicted in the 2001 shooting death of his girlfriend and is serving a 75-year sentence. After inquiries from the Tribune in 2012, Cook County prosecutors announced that Hood’s case would be among the first re-examined by the office’s new Conviction Integrity Unit. And though the unit has set aside other convictions, it has not done so with Hood, who was not set to be paroled until 2030.
Though Morgan was never charged officially in the deaths of his son or fiancée, he was charged and convicted in the 2001 shooting death of his girlfriend and is serving a 75-year sentence. Apparently the inquiries from the Tribune in 2012, prompted Cook County prosecutors to announce that Hood’s case would be among the first re-examined by the office’s new Conviction Integrity Unit. And though the unit has set aside other convictions, it has not done so with Hood, who was not set to be paroled until 2030.
Gayle Horn, Tyrone’s’ attorney spoke of it as a victory but more importantly that Tyrone will have his freedom back, however the next step is to clear his name because he is innocent.
Convicted in the 1991 murder of an elderly Oak Park woman largely on the strength of a confession he signed, Anthony Dansberry, 52 recanted and declared his innocence. Dansberry’s attorneys said he could not even read it the confession so you do the math. There was also a questionable identification by a witness. That witness described the suspect as a black man about 18 to 20 years old and did not mention facial hair. Dansberry was 29 and he had a mustache and a beard, according to court papers.
Dansberry was not scheduled to be paroled until 2029.
Among Dansberry’s attorneys was Jane Raley of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. Noted that Raley died on Christmas Day so it’s a post mortem final victory.
Quinn commuted the 40-year sentence of Howard Morgan, who was convicted of shooting at four Chicago police officers during an early morning traffic stop in 2005 in the Lawndale neighborhood. Morgan, who was a Chicago police officer before becoming a railroad cop, claimed he was the victim of overzealous officers. But police said Morgan fired at them first, and testimony indicated he fired 17 times, while he was hit more than two dozen times. His body has deteriorated and continues to as a result of the injuries sustained from the 28 bullets that entered his body. And his family contends that he does not get proper on going therapy nor medical attention he needs.
Sam Adam Jr., Morgan’s trial attorney, has been emphatic about Morgan’s innocence however had no faith that clemency. would be granted.
“So many politicians wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it,” said Adam. “But instead of worrying about his political future or legacy, (Quinn) did what was right.”
Quinn wa son a roll and also issued David Bates a pardon based on innocence. Bates was convicted in 1983 of murder and has served 11 years before he was exonerated, after it was determined his confession had been coerced by detectives working for the disgraced Burge on the South Side. This sort of thing is what infuriates people. The fact that the law fails the innocent and then all they can do once the truth is discovered is to apologize. Lost are the years that they spent in prison.
Johnnie Lee Savory, who had been convicted of a 1977 double-murder in Peoria. Savory, who has long insisted he was not involved in the crime, was paroled in 2006 after 30 years in prison and has continued to try to prove his innocence was granted a pardon by Quinn.
Quinn commuted the 2 1/2-year sentence of Willie Johnson, who pleaded guilty to perjury in a case that sparked much criticism of State’s Attorney Alvarez. Johnson, 43, had been wounded in a 1992 shooting on the West Side that killed two friends, and he identified the gunman at trial. Nearly two decades later, he recanted his testimony during an appeal for two men, Cedric Cal and Albert Kirkman, who were convicted of the crime and are serving life sentences.
After Johnson recanted, prosecutors charged him with perjury. A coalition of former judges, prosecutors and others urged Alvarez to drop the case, saying the charges would discourage witnesses from recanting false testimony and hinder wrongful conviction investigations.
In addition to the pardons Quinn granted 43 clemencies and denied 119 petitions.
Quinn inherited more than 2,800 requests that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich had taken no action on. He decided 4,928 clemency petitions, more than any other Illinois governor, according to his his administration. Quinn has granted 1,795 and denied 3,133 requests, according to his administration.
The cases he chose were interesting and racially charged giving Quinn an edge of favor from the voters who he could always count on.