Past Event

The Ongoing Saga of Police Torture

Typically, when a governor pardons a person, the case is closed. Not so for Madison Hobley who was pardoned by former Illinois Governor George Ryan in 2003. Now, he is being investigated by federal prosecutors for the same crime. Hobley was convicted for setting a fire that killed seven people, including his wife and 15-month-old son, in 1987. After thirteen years on death row, Hobley was pardoned by Ryan. "Madison Hobley was convicted on the basis of flawed evidence," Ryan said. "He was convicted because the jury did not have the benefit of all existing evidence, which would have served to exonerate him."

However, since murder by arson is a federal offense and a pardon at the state level does not preclude federal charges, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced last week that he is reinvestigating the case. Hobley’s receipt of a $6.5 million settlement by the Chicago City Council, in addition to $1 million he has already received, is contingent on the findings of the investigation. He will receive the rest of his settlement as long as the federal investigation does not lead to an indictment. Hobley’s attorneys have said they are confident that a fair review of the evidence will result in no charges being filed against him and that the case against Hobley was flawed from the start.

According to the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Hobley was one of 14 African American men sentenced to death based on confessions–alleged or acknowledged–obtained by a group of Chicago police officers later shown to have engaged in systematic torture of suspects in criminal cases. A controversial report released by special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle in 2006 found evidence of systematic torture by officers in Chicago and raised questions about specific allegations of torture. Since then, former Commander Jon Burge and other officers who worked under his command when the torture took place have also been under federal investigation for lying under oath or obstructing justice.

Is the federal investigation of Hobley just, given the circumstances of his case? How can citizens ensure that justice is served in the case of Madison Hobley? What can and should be done in light of the revelations of systematic torture by Chicago police officers? Are the ongoing investigations of police torture a sign of the criminal justice system at work? Or are they an indication of a system in need of repair?

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