Keeping It Real

Two years later

By: Stanley Howard, pardoned from Illinois death row

It has been two years since then-Gov. George Ryan pardoned me and three other members of the Death Row 10 (who I call "the Pardoned") while emptying Illinois’ death row. Since many friends and supporters are wondering what’s going on with me two years later, I want to reassure everyone with this brief update. Even though it was bittersweet and heartbreaking that I wasn’t immediately released with the other Pardoned (due to yet another bogus conviction), the love and support I received from everyone kept me in great spirits, highly motivated and strong enough to continue fighting.

In light of the horrible 16 years I spent suffering on death row, we quickly filed a petition asking the court to reduce the remainder of my 50-year sentence to time served. We were not surprised that the state, which fought hard to have me executed, maliciously contested the petition. The judge dismissed it, stating that he didn’t have the authority to grant such a petition. We are appealing his ruling and preparing to file for clemency.

Nor were we surprised by the state’s recent false claims that DNA evidence confirms my guilt, because we expected this smear campaign in the face of the mountain of evidence proving my innocence, and the relationship that the "victim" and I had. We are still seeking a missing report on fingerprints that the state admits were not mine, and answers to many unexplained facts and coincidences--such as why the "victim" identified me a year and a half later (instead of immediately saying that it was Stanley Howard, and he lives at...). We’re asking the state to reinvestigate the case and the falsities of the "victim’s" claims--or grant me a new trial so the truth can be brought out and my innocence established.

The Pardoned have filed four separate civil lawsuits against the City of Chicago, the state’s attorney’s office and the police officers who tortured us into allegedly giving confessions--confessions that were used to wrongfully send each of us to death row. All of the torturers refused to answer any questions about their involvement in the scandal by taking the Fifth Amendment, for fear of being indicted by the special prosecutor appointed to look into the claims of torture. And after 30 years of cover-ups and silence, four courageous officers who worked in the same precinct with the torturers have heroically come forward with their knowledge of detainees being tortured.

I’m happy to report that even though I received a death threat by mail in May 2004, stating "This is your only warning to close your nigger mouth and stay in a nigger’s place before you end up in a deserving body bag," I still spend the majority of my time doing what I love: speaking out from behind this wall and advising, teaching and assisting prisoners with their legal troubles--while trying to bring them and their families, friends and supporters together under one umbrella to attack this broken, unjust and racist criminal justice system.

I’m not afraid of death after spending 16 years under the threat of death on death row, and I’d willingly die on the front line trying to open the eyes and consciousness of all prisoners--because they have the power and ability to close down these fascist political concentration camps they call prisons.

Keeping it Real, it’s been 20 years since my November 1984 arrest, and I’ve outgrown this place mentally, physically and spiritually. I want everyone to know that I’m still fighting and still committed to the fight two years later.

You can contact Stanley by writing to: Stanley Howard #N71620, Stateville Correctional Center, P.O. Box 112, Joliet, IL 60434.