- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) Gov. George Ryan pardoned four death-row inmates yesterday, saying a "manifest injustice" had occurred when they were tortured into confessing by Chicago police.
Mr. Ryan, a Republican whose term in office ends Monday, made the announcement in a speech at DePaul University. It capped his three-year campaign to highlight flaws in the state's capital-punishment system, which began when he declared a moratorium on executions in January 2000.
Mr. Ryan said he was pardoning Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard, Aaron Patterson and Leroy Orange. All of them were on death row for at least 12 years.
"We have evidence from four men, who did not know each other, all getting beaten and tortured and convicted on the basis of the confessions they allegedly provide," Ryan said. "They are perfect examples of what is so terribly broken about our system. …
"I believe a manifest injustice has occurred."
All but Howard, who was convicted of a separate crime, would be released from prison, Mr. Ryan said.
He also said he has finished reviewing the clemency petitions of about 140 other death-row inmates and would make his announcement on their cases today, when he is scheduled to make a speech at Northwestern University's law school.
Mr. Ryan spread the blame in his hourlong speech, calling the state's criminal-justice system "inaccurate, unjust and unable to separate the innocent from the guilty, and at times very racist."
He blamed "rogue cops," zealous prosecutors, incompetent defense lawyers and judges who rule on technicalities rather than on what is right. He also criticized the Illinois Legislature for not enacting his proposals to reform the death-penalty system.
Mr. Ryan said he felt he had little choice when he declared the moratorium on executions after 13 men were freed from Illinois' death row because new evidence exonerated them or there were flaws in the way they were convicted.
"How do you let innocent people march to death row without somebody saying stop the show?" Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Hobley's sister, Robin, burst into tears yesterday morning as she read an advance copy of the speech.
"I've read so many horrible transcripts in the last 15 years, I can't believe what I'm reading," she said. "I'm speechless right now."
Ollie Dodds, whose 34-year-old daughter, Johnnie Dodds, died in an apartment fire that Mr. Hobley was convicted of setting, said she was saddened by Mr. Ryan's decision.
"I don't know how he could do it. It's a hurting thing to hear him say something like that," she said, adding that she still believes Mr. Hobley is responsible.

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