Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker commuted the sentence of a man convicted in 1990 of a double murder in Chicago, according to reports on Friday.
Pritzker’s decision to commute the sentence of Gerald Reed after he has spent three decades behind bars came after a judge in Cook County ruled last year that his rights were never violated, as he claimed, and thus he should remain locked up, The Associated Press reported.
“Whatever day he’s coming home! That’s the thing! He’s coming home!” 78-year-old Armanda Shackelford, Reed’s mother, said as the commutation went through, ABC 7 reported. “They never had any evidence to prove that he did those crimes. The only thing they had was a signed statement that they tortured him so bad into signing.”
“I never lost hope,” Reed, 57, told the station as he gingerly walked with the assistance of his great-niece. He will live with his family in Naperville, ABC 7 added.
In a filing, Reed claimed that Chicago Police detectives subjected him to torture so he would confess to the murders. However, Judge Thomas Hennelly ruled before a scheduled 2018 retrial that the allegedly coerced confession was not used to convict Reed in court and thus his rights were never violated.
David Turner, a co-defendant in the case, is still serving a life sentence for the murders. Also, the Chicago Tribune reported that he never claimed that Chicago Police mistreated him.
“I left a co-defendant behind. And the system was like me vs. him, and that’s not right,” Reed told ABC 7.
Both Turner and Reed were convicted for the murders of Pamela Powers and Willie Williams after prosecutors tied Reed to the murder weapon using firearms ballistics evidence, according to the AP.
Robert Milan, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, argued that ballistics information was used in addition to other evidence to prove that Reed is guilty as charged.
Milan also said that no one from Pritzker’s office notified him of the governor’s decision or the families of the victims, the Chicago Tribune added.
“On behalf of murdered victims Pamela Powers, Willie Williams, and their loved ones, we are very disappointed by Governor Pritzker’s actions today. The victims’ families and the Special Prosecutor’s Office were never notified by the Governor’s Office of today’s decision. Clearly, in Illinois, violent offenders are treated with more respect than the victims of crime,” Milan wrote in a statement.
Attorneys for Reed argued that at the time the murder probe was conducted by detectives who worked under notorious CPD Commander Jon Burge, whose underlings were linked to incidents of torture between 1972 and 1991. Through the years, the city paid out tens of millions of dollars to suspects victimized by Burge, who passed away in 2018, the AP noted.
Though Reed’s sentence has reportedly been commuted, defense attorney Elliot Zinger said he’s going to continue pressing to have the conviction vacated altogether.
Meanwhile, Sheila Bedi, another defense lawyer, said that Reed will soon be let out of Stateville Correctional Center, adding that the governor’s commutation “does not mean Mr. Reed has abandoned his effort to clear his name.”
“Out here is like foreign to me right now,” Reed told ABC 7, adding that he spent the last year in isolation over fears of contracting COVID-19.
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