Former Governor Quinn, Media, Off the Hook in City Settlement?
Will Chicago aldermen rubber stamp settlements from exonerations cases under Governor Pat Quinn?
In another negotiated agreement between City of Chicago and two men who filed lawsuits, the Chicago City Wire reported last week that the city has settled with attorneys representing Tyrone Hood and Wayne Washington. Both Hood and Washington were convicted for the 1993 murder of college basketball star Morgan Marshall Jr. The arrangement between Chicago and the litigants undermined an opportunity to expose the sordid machinations of Chicago’s activist media.
The settlement marks yet another case in which a collection of retired detectives, at great personal risk, chose to testify in a case rather than invoke their Fifth Amendment right in the hopes of clearing their name only to see the city settle just weeks before the case was set for trial.
What makes the settlement in the Hood and Washington case so puzzling is the allegation of collusion between the media and a corrupt politician. Attorneys defending the detectives claimed media narratives, largely unfounded, provided an excuse for the scandal-ridden former governor, Pat Quinn ,to commute the sentence of the two men in his last days in office.
According to court transcripts:
“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 . . . , such as DNA oreyewitness testimony excluding [him] 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, NBC Chicago, Peacock Productions, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Yorker Magazine.”
In particular, the attorneys for detectives assailed an article by New Yorker journalist, Nicholas Schmidle. Attorneys representing investigators involved with the case have asserted Schmidle’s claim that it was Morgan’s father responsible for the murders because the father held an insurance policy for the youth.
The accused police officers have long held that law firms specializing in suing the police over misconduct allegations have both the media and elected officials in their back pockets. A trial in the case could have shed light on those claims.
Consider this: A deeply disturbing media silence surrounded the case as city attorneys deposed various media figures and laid out a body of evidence of what they claimed were contrived narratives. The attorneys representing police investigators also spent more than a year petitioning in court to depose Quinn in an effort to compel the former governor to explain what evidence justified releasing the convicted killers apart from the media stories. Those arguments and evidence by city attorneys remained out of the public domain. A clear sign that there is little if any independence or accountability in the Chicago media, Chicago’s media figures regularly regurgitate stories about the need for police accountability only.
A trial in the case could also have provoked renewed attention to one of the darkest chapters in the modern history of the city, one that would have provided a glimpse into how the entire federal criminal justice system has been politicized and protected by the media in the waning moments of Quinn’s administration following the then-governor's 2014 electoral loss to Bruce Rauner.
Hood was not the only man freed by Quinn under questionable circumstances. The former governor also commuted the sentence of Howard Morgan, who was convicted on four counts of the attempted murder of four Chicago police officers after Morgan shot some 17 rounds at the officer officers during a traffic stop. In the shooting, three CPD officers were wounded.
Quinn also commuted the sentence of Willie Johnson, who had been convicted of perjury and was sentenced to 30 months in prison for recanting his testimony about a 1992 double murder that could have paved the way for the release of two convicted killers from prison.
Quinn’s decision to release the three men from prison provided grist for the anti-police movement and potential windfalls in civil lawsuits. It also Quinn who can answer vital question: On whose behalf were both the media and Quinn working? The Hood and Washington trial could very well have presented to the public a view of what has become the demise of the American media and the capitulation of elected officials to the anti-police movement.
All of this amounts to another lost opportunity for the city to iron out the truth in the exoneration industry and the key role it has played in transforming the American media and criminal justice system.
All that remains now for Hood and Washington to join the million-dollar club of former convicted murderers and rapists is a vote by the Chicago City Council.
Will the City Council continue to be the usual rubber stamp for an exoneration settlement approved by many aldermen who puff and posture about violence in their own minority neighborhoods? Will any of the aldermen call out Chicago’s activist media for their deplorable conduct in this case and others? When the attorney representing Chicago stands before the City Council to explain why they recommend settling, will any aldermen be prepared to question the attorney over facts of the case? Will any alderman finally admit that many of the exoneration cases are little more than media fables? Will lawmakers call on Quinn to explain his conduct — a decision that should have forever doomed Quinn’s political aspirations — when he released Washington, Hood, Morgan, and Johnson from prison?
Most importantly, will Chicago aldermen finally address the evidence that the detectives who worked this case were, in fact, serving and protecting the citizens of the Windy City?