by Kathy Chaney
Chicago, Jan. 26 – Afraid their appeals will fall on deaf ears if Gov. Rod Blagojevich is ousted, several relatives of victims tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge paid a visit to the governor’s office to ask for pardons.
The impeached governor was not at his office today. Instead he was making national media rounds in New York. Blagojevich was scheduled to appear before the state Senate in his impeachment trial that began today.
Jo Ann Patterson made the trip to the embattled Blagojevich’s office to deliver a letter requesting that he pardon the many victims who were allegedly tortured into confessions by way of beatings and electric shocks by Burge and detectives under his command. [Editor’s note: The Chicago chapter of the POCC was also in attendance.]
She fears if Blagojevich is convicted by the Senate, the requested pardons won’t have a chance.
Patterson’s son and torture victim Aaron Patterson was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. He was pardoned by former Gov. George Ryan in 2003. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence in a Kentucky federal prison for [trumped up – ed.] drug and weapon charges.
Aaron Patterson was one of four pardoned Death Row inmates who sued the city. He received $5 million of the $20 million settlement.
“This letter is a request/demand that you please correct or abolish injustices in Illinois that Atty. Devine and Lisa Madigan refuse to do because they are busy trying to steal your Governor’s seat. They are ignoring or sidestepping the following meaningful injustices that I and my community now wish to be resolved before you leave your office,” Patterson’s letter stated.
Patterson – along with Bertha Escamilla, Ra Chaka and Nathson Fields – called for Blagojevich to sign an executive order abolishing the death penalty, pardon or expunge the records of all victims of torture under Burge, resolve C-Number prisoners’ cases and shut down the Tamms Correctional Center. C-Number prisoners are those inmates sentenced before 1978.
Escamilla said her son Nicholas served nearly 15 years for a 1992 murder he didn’t commit. He was given 29 years but served about half the time and was released last May.
“He was forced to give a false statement for first degree murder or his family would suffer. My son gave in because he did not want any harm to come to his family and gave the false confession. He needs justice as well as many others who have suffered because of these criminals who hide their protection of the badge they swore to uphold. So I now ask you, Gov. Blagojevich, to restore justice and start to heal the hearts of many families who suffered as a result of this criminal act,” Escamilla said.
This isn’t her first appeal for her son’s pardon. An application to Ryan was denied in 2003. She remains hopeful with Blagojevich.
Nathson Fields also hopes the governor hears his cry and grants pardons before Blagojevich is removed from office.
“I was wrongfully convicted for double murder and sent to Death Row. I was granted a new trial because the judge I had at the time, Thomas Maloney, got in trouble for taking a bribe. I’m out on a $100,000 appeal bond, paid by Aaron Patterson. I spent 18 years behind bars, 11 and a half of that on Death Row,” Fields said.
Fields said he’s also looking for a pardon and for Tamms to be shut down. “Tamms is the Guantanamo Bay of Illinois. It’s a torture camp,” he said.
Representatives from the governor’s office did not comment on the letter but said they would pass it on to Blagojevich.
© Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. Kathy Chaney writes for the Chicago Defender, where this story first appeared.