Justice for the Death Row Ten

By: Joan Parkin

Two months ago, the Death Row Ten - a group of prisoners who were sent to death row after being tortured by former Police Commander Jon Burge - asked the Campaign to be their voice on the outside. They took the courageous step of speaking out in the face of possible retribution by prison officials to let the truth be heard. What is outrageous is that while Burge was fired for extracting confessions with electric shock, suffocation and beatings, his victims remain on death row. The members of the Death Row Ten are Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard, Ronald Kitchen, Leroy Orange, Leonard Kidd, Andrew Maxwell, Reginald Mahaffey, Jerry Mahaffey and Derrick King. (The Death Row Ten originally consisted of 11 men, but Frank Bounds recently died of cancer.) While some never confessed, many were convicted on the basis of these tortured confessions alone.

Aaron Patterson, the best-known of the Ten, described the torture he underwent at the Area 2 police station: "They placed me in an interview room and handcuffed me to a wall. The lights were turned off, and three detectives unknown to me then put a plastic typewriter cover over my face to suffocate me for about a minute. While I was being suffocated, other detectives kicked and punched me - or restrained me so I could not resist."

The first thing the Death Row Ten proposed from their prison cells was to have a demonstration. They even furnished activists with a flyer produced in prison announcing the event. More than 70 people participated in this lively demonstration, which was covered by local newspapers and a national cable network. Prisoners across the country saw on television that night the mothers and fathers of the Death Row Ten marching around the precinct with pictures of their sons. The demonstrators called on Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan to set up a meeting to address their concerns. Letters have also been sent to Ryan, Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine, demanding that they set up an independent commission to investigate the charges of torture. But all of our requests have been ignored. We are now planning a protest rally in front of Devine's office.

For a fact sheet and petition for the Death Row Ten, please write to: Campaign to End the Death Penalty, P.O. Box 25730, Chicago IL 60625.