The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Mayor Emanuel, Gregory Pratt: Who Set The Fire?

Gregory Pratt, the Chicago Tribune, and the Mayor of Chicago seem upset that the FOP has stated the full story about the Jon Burge cases has not been told. 

In response to this statement, Pratt rushed off to Mayor Emanuel for a quote condemning the FOP for daring to utter such a statement. 

So, then, perhaps Pratt and the mayor would answer a question looming in Chicago for three decades. 

Who set the fire on the south side of Chicago in 1987 that killed seven people?

The man originally convicted of setting the fire, Madison Hobley, was ultimately released from death row in 2003 by Governor George Ryan given some $7 million dollars in a settlement agreement. Ryan pardoned three other convicted killers at the same time, Stanley Howard, Leroy Orange, and Aaron Patterson.

Hobley’s pardon means that this mass murder case remains unsolved. But despite the magnitude of the crime, there is an eerie silence about this unsolved case. No one seems to want to reopen it, certainly not Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Gregory Pratt. 

January 11, 2003 New York Times:

“Mr. Hobley, who was convicted of killing his wife, infant child and five others in a 1987 arson, walked out of Pontiac Correctional Center this afternoon, one of four death row inmates that Governor Ryan pardoned three days before the end of his term. Experts said it was the first time in memory that condemned men had been directly pardoned, as opposed to being released through a court proceeding, an extraordinary step Governor Ryan took because, he said, he is convinced of their innocence…”

The decision, celebrated by the wrongful conviction advocates in Chicago, was assailed by prosecutors and the family members of victims.

The New York Times again:

Richard A. Devine, the Cook County state's attorney, issued a statement this afternoon calling the pardons ''outrageous and unconscionable.''

''These cases against these men are still before our courts, and it is the courts that should decide the issues in these cases,'' Mr. Devine said, referring to pending appeals. ''By his actions today the governor has breached faith with the memory of the dead victims, their families and the people he was elected to serve.''

Devine’s outrage is not without basis. Here is another passage from the New York Times article:

Governor Ryan's action today is also different because Mr. Hobley and the others -- Stanley Howard, Leroy Orange and Aaron Patterson – have been unable to convince judges or prosecutors that they were wrongly convicted.

Couldn’t convince judges or prosecutors that they were wrongly convicted? Why, then, were they pardoned?

Things have certainly changed in Chicago since Hobley was pardoned, especially for the Chicago Tribune. In that period the legitimacy of a host of exonerations based upon police misconduct have imploded under renewed scrutiny. 

In that renewed scrutiny, allegations of bribed witnesses, perjury, and obstruction of justice have been made. Some of those allegations have emerged in the Hobley case as well. 

Many of these cases, including Hobley’s, were championed by the likes of the Chicago Tribune, which has steadfastly refused to take up a larger inquiry into its reporting of this most seminal period of Chicago’s legal history. 

And here is a key point. It was the Hobley case that was used to indict and convict former police commander Jon Burge for his sole conviction. Regardless of what crimes an individual believes Burge is guilty of, the Hobley case cries out for a review by the Chicago media. The mayor owes the citizens of Chicago and the police officers an inquiry into cases like the Madison Hobley exoneration, as well. 

But, tellingly, neither the mayor nor “reporters” like Gregory Pratt will do so. 

This is what the FOP means by the full story about the Burge cases not being told. 

So Mayor Emanuel and Gregory Pratt, perhaps it is time to step up to the plate:

Who set the fire in 1987 that killed seven people?