[Hpn] NYTimes.com Article: Illinois Court Gives Hope to 6 on Death Row
Sat, 12 Aug 2000 08:16:34 -0400
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Will justice be served here?
Illinois Court Gives Hope to 6 on Death Row
August 12, 2000
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Aug. 11 -- In a single day, the Illinois Supreme
Court gave new hope to six inmates on death row, including two
men who say they were tortured into confessing.
In a series of decisions on the death penalty on Thursday, the
state's highest court ordered hearings on whether the two men,
Derrick King and Aaron Patterson, had been given poor legal
representation and had been tortured by Chicago police officers.
Those hearings could lead to new trials.
Mr. King was convicted in 1979 of fatally shooting a store clerk.
Mr. Patterson was convicted in 1986 of killing two people.
The state has been grappling with the death penalty because of a
string of cases in which men were found to have been wrongly
In January, Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions,
citing evidence of coerced confessions, misconduct by prosecutors
and incompetent defense lawyers.
Thirteen people have been freed from death row since Illinois
reinstated the death penalty in 1977. About 160 people are on
death row now, but Illinois has not executed anyone since March
The Supreme Court had already reviewed the King and Patterson
cases, upholding the convictions. But the court decided to relax
its rules and revisit the cases, "guided by principles of
fundamental fairness," Justice Benjamin Miller wrote.
Flint Taylor, Mr. Patterson's new lawyer, said, "It appears to us
to be a very strong statement by the Supreme Court concerning the
evidence of torture we presented."
The Cook County state's attorney, Richard Devine, defended
prosecutors' handling of the cases and said his office might ask
the court to reconsider its decisions.
In other rulings on Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered new
trials and evidentiary hearings for four other men on death row.
Two death row inmates' appeals were turned down.
The court rejected a Polish citizen's plea that his murder
conviction and death sentence be overturned, but one justice
raised the possibility of returning the man to Poland to serve a
sentence there. The inmate, Gregory Madej, 40, was convicted in
the 1981 rape and stabbing death of a Chicago woman.
Justices upheld the death sentence for Patrick Page, who had been
found guilty of two killings in Cook County in the 1980's.
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