Getting Away With Murder in Chicago

by | Jul 4, 2023 | Law and Fair Courts

Taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to wrongfully convicted felons. But do the cases hold water?

A settlement deal was just cut in the wrongful conviction trials of two men who each spent over 10 years in prison for being convicted of the 1993 murder of college basketball star Marshall Morgan Jr. on Chicago’s South Side. Details of the settlement are not yet public, but if the terms are like dozens of others such settlements in Chicago in recent years, the convicted murderers, Wayne Washington and Tyrone Hood, and their lawyers will walk away with millions in a payout from the city.

Yet in the case no new evidence was presented to show the men innocent of the crime. Rather, they first had their convictions vacated, and then filed wrongful conviction suits in federal court, based on their allegations that investigating detectives beat them into confessing.

Their claims were trumpeted by a mainstream media, carrying the water for the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case.

Soft on Crime

Chicago is the perfect incubator for growth of the exoneration industry in this country. It’s loaded with far-left, soft-on-crime officials, leading with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who appears at times to be working hand-in-hand with plaintiffs’ firms—one of which, the People’s Law Office, actually had ties with the violent Marxist group of the ‘60s, the Weather Underground.

And Springfield’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly has given the lawyers the constructs to both free convicted murderers based on allegations of abuse, and slam dunk the wrongful conviction cases in court.

“Wrongful” Convictions?

In 2008, the General Assembly established the Certificate of Innocence (COI) where the petitioner is supposed to present a preponderance of evidence “did not by his or her own conduct voluntarily cause or bring about his or her conviction.” It doesn’t always work that way, as we’ll see in one case where Kim Foxx reversed a challenge of the awarding of COIs to two convicted in the savage stabbing murders of a husband and wife, and the kidnapping of their children.

(This while Foxx’s own assistants were convinced the two, Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes, were guilty of the crimes.)

Another legislative construct, whose constitutionality is now being challenged in court, was the 2009 created Torture Inquiry & Relief Commission (TIRC), which through a veiled investigation process refers alleged police abuse cases for new evidentiary hearings.

One of its more infamous referrals was Jackie Wilson who was convicted, along with his brother Andrew, of the 1982 execution style murders of police officers Richard O’Brien and William Fahey. Jackie was convicted a second time of O’Brien’s murder, when he was tried separately from his bother.

Thanks to TIRC, he is now pursuing a wrongful conviction case in federal court.

TIRC was a direct outgrowth of the saga of former Commander Jon Burge, now deceased, convicted in federal court in 2010 of perjury stemming from allegations that he orchestrated a campaign of torturing suspects. Any police officer even minimally associated with Burge—and many who weren’t—are now wide open to clams of abuse and coercion.

In the Hood/Washington case, for instance, the claims are that former detectives and partners Kenneth Boudreau and Jack Halloran beat them into confessing. Both detectives spent a short period of time in the early 90s working in an area under Burge’s command, but both had little contact with him. And both were willing to testify in the case, as they are in others where they’ve been named, that they never abused suspects. But the case— Hood with COI in hand— was settled.

It was former Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, who in 2015 commuted Hood’s sentence.

Quinn later said that he relied heavily on a 2014 New Yorker magazine story about the case for his rationale in commuting the sentence, according to a recent filing in federal court by city attorneys representing the former detectives.

Quinn admitted in a 2015 panel discussion at the University of Chicago Law School that the New Yorker story strongly influenced his decision to commute Hood’s sentence. In the story by Nicholas Schmidle, Hood claimed that detectives “slapped him in the head, and thrust a gun in his face” in an attempt to get him to confess. Schmidle also pointed to Morgan’s father as the real killer.

But the story, the city attorneys say, omitted key facts about an insurance policy Morgan’s father took out on his son, and misquoted Morgan’s mother implicating her son’s father in the murder.

The media campaign, city attorneys further say, was orchestrated by the Exoneration Project (EP), an arm of Loevy & Loevy, the plaintiffs firm representing Hood. EP attorneys were part of the same University of Chicago panel discussion with Quinn.

“At the Panel Discussion, members of the EP and Gov. Quinn openly acknowledged just how important the strategy was in getting Hood’s case on Quinn’s radar,” the lawyers said in a court filing said. “Two EP attorneys credited the media with ‘playing a huge role in multiple stages with Hood,’ including the ability to either pressure Quinn or get his attention over 4,000 other petitions.”

“EP attorney Karl Leonard,” the filing continued, “said that ‘one of the big advantages’ the EP had to offer was its media contacts and ‘friendly reporters who will report on these stories when we ask them to.’”

In the Solache/Reyes wrongful conviction case, Kim Foxx’s office continues to fight the deposition of one of her top officials to uncover why the office reversed itself on opposing the COIs for the two.

It was First Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier who made the final call to drop its opposition to the COIs, which were awarded last November.

In their case, Solache and Reyes are alleging that retired Detective Reynaldo Guevara coerced them into confessing to the murders.

In their response to the motion to quash the deposition, defense attorneys wrote that a CCSAO claim of deliberative process privilege to protect internet office communications doesn’t hold in part because the CCSAO communicated about the case with those outside the office, including lawyers with the plaintiffs’ firm of Loevy & Loevy representing Reyes, according to documents obtained through a subpoena. 

“On June 14, 2023, after numerous Rule 37.2 conferences, Defendants received the CCSAO’s response to their subpoena, which included heavily redacted communications between an assistant to State’s Attorney Foxx, ASA Lanier, Joshua Tepfer (an attorney at Loevy & Loevy and the Exoneration Project), and counsel for Reyes from Loevy & Loevy, Steve Art and Anand Swaminathan,” the attorneys wrote in their response. “This communication revealed that State’s Attorney Foxx, ASA Lanier, Tepfer, Art and Swaminathan met at least once on June 14, 2022, regarding the CCSAO cases involving Detective Ray Guevara, including Solache’s and Reyes’s cases. At that time, the only pending CCSAO matters involving Solache and Reyes were their COI petitions.”

Taxpayers Foot the Bill

In April, WGN reported that Chicago has paid more than $578 million since 2016 in “judgments, settlements and legal fees relating to claims of police misconduct.”

Millions more in payouts are coming, and the lawyers who know the system are going to get even richer, while, the taxpayers, who don’t, will continue to get soaked.

Whit Kennedy is a graduate of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he studied chemistry and was valedictorian of his class. A conservative, he has been covering business, the law and pro-life issues, principally as a ghostwriter, for thirty years. He now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. 

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