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Illinois judge dismisses two 19-year old murder convictions

7 July 2009

By Lynne Marek

Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court Judge Paul Biebel Jr., granted dismissals of the convictions of two men for five murders on Tuesday after assistant state's attorneys requested them in court. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sought dismissal of murder charges against the two men after the Bluhm Legal Clinic of Northwestern University School of Law and pro bono attorneys who revisited the 19-year-old cases raised questions about evidence and a witness used to convict the men. The clinic and pro bono attorneys had filed petitions for retrial on behalf of the men, but after a review by her staff, Madigan requested the dismissals.

In the case against one of the men, Ronald Kitchen, the conviction was based on a confession elicited by a detective who worked for former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, who last year was indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago for perjury related to alleged torture under his command. In the other case, against Marvin Reeves, the evidence revolved around one witness who previously received undisclosed benefits in exchange for his testimony, said Mayer Brown Partner Michael Gill, who worked on the case for four years.

"When you go into state court on these things, you sometimes find you can do some good for the system because there's just not the time and money for public defenders to work up cases the way we can with the firm standing behind us," said Gill. 

When the attorney general's office revisited the cases because of alleged torture by Burge's detective against Kitchen, it found information in files showing that a key witness in Reeves' case had been released from prison in exchange for his testimony against Reeves, Gill said. The state's attorney who prosecuted the case hadn't disclosed the information, depriving Reeves of his due process rights, he said.

Baker & McKenzie attorney Mark Oates, who represented Kitchen, couldn't be reached for comment. Thomas Geraghty, director of the Bluhm clinic and another attorney for Kitchen, also couldn't be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Madigan's office, Robyn Ziegler, confirmed that the attorney general sought the dismissals.

Kitchen and Reeves were to be released on Tuesday. Kitchen had been sentenced to death and Reeves had been sentenced to five life terms without parole for the 1988 drug-related murders of two women and three children, whose bodies were found in the victims' burning home.

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    Michael J. Gill
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