To Err Is Human - To Cover Up, Devine

Members Of The Death Row 10 Are Offered Deals


By: Jesse Sharkey

Members of the Death Row 10--a group Illinois prisoners who were tortured by Chicago police--were offered deals recently by Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, but only if they drop their torture claims. These deals mean that some members of the Death Row 10 could eventually go free. But their freedom would come at a big price.

In addition to dropping their torture claims, inmates who have maintained their innocence may have to "admit" guilt to crimes they did not commit. This was too much for Aaron Patterson, who was offered a deal that would allow him to be released within a few years. "I’m going to stay until we get this thing right," Patterson told the Chicago Tribune. "I’m pretty much certain they know now I didn’t do it, but they’re trying to wiggle their way out of it."

These offers from the state fit a pattern in Illinois of prosecutors using deals to cover up wrongful convictions. In the case of the Ford Heights Four, four men who were cleared by DNA evidence (two of whom had been sentenced to death), prosecutors also offered deals. "They hoped that an admission of guilt from one of the defendants would help validate their prosecution of all four," said attorney Mark Ter Molen, who represented Ford Heights Four member Verneal Jimerson.

In the cases of the Death Row 10, Devine is clearly feeling the heat from activists who have been organizing a public campaign to win justice. "The fact that they are now offering deals shows that they’re scared," said Joan Parkin, a national organizer for the Campaign.

Meanwhile, Campaign activists have continued to organize around evidentiary hearings that could lead to the exoneration of Death Row 10 members Madison Hobley and Stanley Howard.

In Madison’s case, the defense obtained an expert witness willing to testify that a gas can Madison supposedly used to set a fire was never in a blaze, as the prosecution has maintained.

The state has delayed the proceedings of Madison’s evidentiary hearing for 17 months. And now, despite the fact that the testimony about the gas can has been planned for months, the state is claiming that it is "beyond the scope" of the appellate ruling that gave Hobley a hearing and should be barred from consideration! This maneuver means that it could be a year or more before the defense gets to make its case.

Prosecutors also continue to delay Stanley Howard’s evidentiary hearing, which should allow the court to consider medical evidence that proves Stanley was tortured.

The Campaign plans to keep up this fight--until all of the members of the Death Row 10 win the justice they deserve.