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Chicago police torture

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Posted 1/10/2003 5:46 AM Updated 1/10/2003 3:23 PM

Ill. governor pardons four death row inmates
CHICAGO (AP) Gov. George Ryan on Friday pardoned four death row inmates, saying "a manifest injustice" had occurred when they were tortured into confessing by Chicago police.

Ryan, whose term in office ends Monday, made the announcement in a speech at DePaul University. It capped his three-year campaign to highlight flaws in the state's capital punishment system, which began when he declared a moratorium on executions in January 2000.

Ryan said he was pardoning Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard, Aaron Patterson and Leroy Orange. All of them were on death row for at least 12 years.

"We have evidence from four men, who did not know each other, all getting beaten and tortured and convicted on the basis of the confessions they allegedly provide," Ryan said. "They are perfect examples of what is so terribly broken about our system. ...

"I believe a manifest injustice has occurred."

All but Howard, who was convicted of a separate crime, were expected to be released Friday, Ryan said.

The Republican governor also said he has finished reviewing the clemency petitions of about 140 other death row inmates and would make his announcement on their cases Saturday, when he is scheduled to make a speech at Northwestern University law school.

Ryan spread the blame in his hour-long speech, calling the state's criminal justice system "inaccurate, unjust and unable to separate the innocent from the guilty, and at times very racist."

He blamed "rogue cops," zealous prosecutors, incompetent defense lawyers and judges who rule on technicalities rather than on what is right. He also criticized the Illinois Legislature for failing to enact his proposals to reform the death penalty system.

Ryan said he felt he had little choice when declared the moratorium on executions after 13 men were freed from Illinois' death row because new evidence exonerated them or there were flaws in the way they were convicted.

"How do you let innocent people march to death row without somebody saying stop the show?" Ryan said.

Hobley's sister, Robin, burst into tears Friday morning as she read an advance copy of the speech.

"I've read so many horrible transcripts in the last 15 years, I can't believe what I'm reading," she said. "I'm speechless right now."

Ollie Dodds, whose 34-year-old daughter, Johnnie Dodds, died in an apartment fire that Hobley was convicted of setting, said she was saddened by Ryan's decision.

"I don't know how he could do it. It's a hurting thing to hear him say something like that," she said, adding that she still believes Hobley is responsible.

DePaul is home to an anti-death penalty center founded by Andrea Lyon, a lawyer who represents Hobley. Northwestern University has also been active in the attack on the state's capital punishment system, and Northwestern journalism students have conducted investigations that freed several inmates.

The most recent precedent for a blanket clemency came 16 years ago when the governor of New Mexico commuted the death sentences of the state's five death row inmates.

Patterson claims he was tortured into falsely confessing to murder after police threatened him with a gun, beat him and tried to suffocate him in 1986. He previously turned down a deal to admit guilt and drop his claim of police torture in exchange for freedom.

Hobley was convicted of murder and aggravated arson in the deaths of seven people, including his wife and infant son. He contended he made a false confession after he was beaten and nearly suffocated.

Orange was sentenced to die for taking part in the stabbing of his former girlfriend, her 10-year-old son and two others. The conviction came despite Orange's description of torture and testimony that his half brother, Leonard Kidd, was the one who stabbed the victims. Kidd, also on death row, claims he too was tortured into confessing.

Howard was convicted of murder, armed robbery and rape, among other crimes. He claims he is innocent of the crimes, but said he confessed after he was handcuffed to a wall ring, beaten and choked by police in November 1984.

It remains to be seen whether Ryan will be remembered more for his stand against capital punishment or for a corruption scandal that shattered his career and crippled the state Republican Party he once led.

A criminal trial is expected to get under way next week on federal prosecutor's allegations that Ryan's former chief aide and his campaign committee illegally diverted state resources for campaign purposes. A number of Ryan's close advisers have been indicted, and federal prosecutors have alleged the governor knew of attempts to conceal potential wrongdoing from investigators.

Ryan has not been charged.


Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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