Bombshell Motion Puts Former Governor, Media in Hot Seat
Exoneration Project Tactics Under Fire in Case against Chicago Detectives
Attorneys defending Chicago Police Officers in a federal lawsuit are trying to depose former Governor Pat Quinn, claiming Quinn and civil rights attorneys used media pressure, not new evidence, to free a man serving a 75-year sentence for murder.
In a strongly worded motion this February, attorneys for detectives who worked a 1993 murder case that resulted in the conviction of Tyrone Hood and Wayne Washington for the murder of Marshall Morgan Jr. are seeking to depose former Governor Quinn in connection with the case. Morgan was a basketball player at the Illinois Institute of Technology when he was murdered.
Attorneys for Hood and Washington have claimed that the murder was actually committed by Morgan’s father, a claim assailed by attorneys representing the detectives.
In their February motion, attorneys for the detectives are focusing on Governor Quinn’s role in the release of Hood, particularly Quinn’s decision to commute Hood’s sentence in the waning moments of Quinn’s administration.
From the motion:
On Mr. Quinn’s last day in office as Governor, January 12, 2015, he commuted Plaintiff Hood’s 75-year sentence to time served. Mr. Quinn’s decision set in motion a chain of events that led directly to the reversal of Plaintiff’s convictions and these lawsuits, but the decision was not based on the discovery of any new evidence exonerating Hood or Washington, such as DNA or eyewitness testimony excluding them from the crime—that evidence does not exist. Rather, it was the product of an intense media campaign by Hood’s attorneys involving local and international celebrities.
Quinn’s attorneys are fighting the subpoena seeking the deposition.
One of the detectives who worked the case, Kenneth Boudreau, has been a target of civil rights law firms and the media for decades—the same media that alleges a “code of silence” in the police department on an almost weekly basis. These attorneys and their media allies have alleged misconduct against Boudreau going back decades, sometimes alluding to the fact that Boudreau at one time worked in the same unit as former police commander Jon Burge.
But Boudreau has been fighting back against the allegations against him on this case and several others, claiming he is the victim of a campaign by the media and the civil rights law firms that make so much money suing the police. The Hood lawsuit and the motion demanding the deposition of Quinn give life to the sentiments by Boudreau and many police officers, prosecutors, and attorneys who assert a tripartite collusion among political figures, civil rights law firms, and media allies who conspire to gin up lucrative lawsuits against detectives by alleging misconduct.
Indeed, targeted in the motion is the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago, a legal clinic that claims to fight “wrongful convictions.” The clinic is staffed by many attorneys from the powerhouse civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy.
The attorneys for the detectives claim members of the Exoneration Project initiated an “intense media campaign,” which, the motion alleges, was a “more dynamic” alternative to the courts.
“Its purpose was to try Hood’s case, unopposed, in the court of public opinion in order to get Mr. Quinn’s attention and convince him to release Hood,” the motion read.
The problem, the attorneys for the defense argue, is that the media campaign “relied on the same misleading arguments that courts had consistently rejected over the previous 25 years.”
Media outlets condemned in the motion included NBC Chicago, Peacock Productions, the New Yorker, and the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune has been under fire from the FOP, attorneys, and detectives who claim the newspaper has been a virtual public relations outlet for law firms like Loevy & Loevy and the People’s Law Office and for Northwestern University.
Now those allegations against the media are making their way into the federal courtroom. And a former governor is being called into a high-profile case about a convicted murderer being exonerated.
The silence from the media is deafening.
What makes the motion even more compelling is the fact that Hood was not the only convicted offender released by Quinn just before Quinn left office. To this day, Quinn has not explained why he also commuted the sentence of Howard Morgan, convicted on four counts of attempted murder after Morgan shot three police officers on the West Side in 2005 during a traffic stop. Morgan’s supporters employed a powerful and vocal media and civil rights campaign on behalf of Morgan outside the courtroom, alleging various conspiracy theories against the officers, who were shot at seventeen times and shot back at Morgan some eighteen times during the incident. Those conspiracy theories included everything from the attempted racist execution of Morgan to robbery of Morgan.
That intense media pressure by Morgan’s supporters is likely one reason it took two trials and nine years to convict him, all for naught after Quinn released Morgan without explanation shortly after he went to prison.
Quinn also commuted the sentence of Willie Johnson, convicted of perjury when he returned to a Chicago courtroom and claimed his testimony in a 1992 double-murder case decades earlier was false. Johnson said he lied about Cedric Cal and Albert Kirkman fatally shooting two of his friends and severely wounding Johnson. Exoneration Project attorneys represented Kirkman in his bid to get out of prison based on Johnson’s retraction, if the courts bought Johnson’s retraction.
But they didn’t. Neither did Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. She charged Johnson with perjury, and Johnson took a plea for four years.
Then, out of nowhere, Quinn let him out, just as he did Morgan and Hood.
It gets worse.
Defense attorneys cite in their motion the fact that Quinn continued to argue for the innocence of Hood after Quinn left office. Quinn, they argue, even attended a panel discussion entitled “Trying a Case Outside the Courts” with the Exoneration Project in which the members actually boasted of their tactic to circumvent the courts and use media pressure to garner exonerations.
From the Exoneration Project:
Hood’s release from prison and subsequent conviction dismissal—a victory for the Law School’s Exoneration Project—involved the exercise of executive power and a deliberate media strategy. . . .
Hood’s case first fell under scrutiny when evidence suggested that witness testimony connecting him to the murder was the product of police coercion. This evidence, along with proof that linked the victim’s father to the crime, garnered public support and led to extensive media coverage of his conviction.
Leonard, an associate at Winston & Strawn, stressed the value of using this media coverage advantageously. “The most important thing was that we had the contacts and that we used them at the right time,” he said.
So is the Exoneration Project arguing that with the right politicians and journalists, any conviction can be overturned? It seems they are. Those pesky courts, trials, and those silly burdens of actual evidence. . . . Why bother when you have the politicians and the media in your back pocket?
This revealing glimpse into the real strategy of the Exoneration Project goes a long way in explaining how so many killers have gotten out and then gotten rich and what role the media played in allowing them to do so.
Much irony surrounds Quinn’s situation, including the fact that after commuting the sentence of a man who shot three cops, a man whose lies could have released two killers, and a man convicted of killing a basketball star, Quinn had the gall to run for the state’s highest law enforcement position, attorney general.
The motion cites yet another irony. After leaving his scandal-plagued administration, Quinn ran around the city and state claiming that not only did he commute the sentence of Hood, but he also then began claiming Hood was innocent. Now that defense attorneys want to depose Quinn, he is fighting it:
Since granting Hood clemency and leaving office, Mr. Quinn has not shied away from publicity his decision received. To the contrary, he has willingly given interviews, spoken on panels, and made public appearances with and about Hood. . .
Now that he has been subpoenaed, however, Mr. Quinn no longer wishes to discuss his decision to grant Hood’s clemency request, at least not with defendant’s counsel.
Certainly, Chicago detectives and police officers have a lot of questions for Quinn.
The Chicago Tribune also takes a hit in the motion, which accuses the newspaper of what many detectives and the FOP have been saying for decades: “civil rights” law firms like the Exoneration Project ginned up a “media campaign” with the likes of theTribune “to try Hood’s case, unopposed, in the court of public opinion in order to get Mr. Quinn’s attention and convince him to release Hood.”
Rather than serve as the Exoneration Project’s public relations outpost, the Tribuneshould have investigated Quinn’s actions on behalf of the Exoneration Project in this case and the other deeply suspicious Quinn commutations. But the Tribune, and in particular Federal Courts reporter Jason Meisner, appears more interested in protecting the Tribune’s doomed anti-police narrative, just as Meisner has refused to cover key developments in other wrongful conviction cases that undermine exonerations and restore the reputations of detectives and police officers.
The Tribune’s conduct, and Meisner’s in particular, is something to keep in mind the next time the Tribune publishes one of their daily stories about some killer or vicious rapist being innocent, the victim of “police misconduct.”
Or, for that matter, the next time Jason Meisner and his cronies at the the paper have the gall to publish a story about a “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department.