Crooked City

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Will Quinn Betray Wounded Cops by Pardoning Offender?

In Chicago’s Democratic machine, no criminal conviction is ever secure. Every killer, rapist, and gang member knows that they can get out of prison.

A whole industry, called the wrongful conviction movement, is working to free them. All any offender needs is a recanted witness statement, a typographical error on a case report, or a witness to die off, and then freedom is just around the corner. The offenders could have killed as many as seven people, raped a child before murdering them, or gunned down two people in a crowded park with eight people watching.

 It doesn’t matter in the Crooked City.

There are university professors willing to help the criminals, scores of journalists hoping to add a “wrongful conviction” reversal to their resumes, and hundreds of naïve college students believing the trumped-up claims of a thug.

When all this fails, the offenders have a last resort: the Governor of Illinois.

After all, it was a decree by former Governor Ryan that exonerated killer Anthony Porter. It was another decree by Governor Ryan that let out Madison Hobley, who incinerated his own family and five others in an arson. Afterward, Ryan himself went off to prison.

Now, rumors are flying that activists are pressuring outgoing Governor Quinn to pardon a gunman who fired 17 shots at four police officers during a traffic stop in 2005.

Three of the officers were wounded. One officer, John Wrigley, sustained a wound to his chest near his heart, but the bullet was just barely stopped by his vest. Otherwise, he would have most certainly died. The officers returned fire, striking the offender some 18 times. When the offender finally ran out of bullets, the police stopped firing in return, an incredible display of discipline and adherence to the law and police procedure while under fire.

Nevertheless, the full force of the wrongful conviction movement was unleashed on those four officers. Because the offender, Howard Morgan, was black and the officers white, the agitators knew they had hope. The tripartite alliance of crooked political leaders, the media, and university academics went into gear. Every claim, no matter how ludicrous and contrary to the vast amount of evidence, was accepted as fact. Religious groups jumped in. They made a documentary.

 “Journalists” like Mary Mitchell and Charles Thomas covered only one side of the story, giving full vent to every ridiculous claim, no matter how much it contradicted the evidence or common sense. They never bothered to interview the cops or anyone on their side. Thomas refused to attend the trial when the police presented their evidence. Journalists tried to associate these officers and this incident to those of former Police Commander Jon Burge, accused of abusing suspects in the 1980s. 

What emerged from their imaginations was a fuzzy, ever-changing narrative in which four cops, two from one car and two from another, made a traffic stop and within a few moments agreed to shoot Morgan because he was black. For a while there were claims that they were robbing Morgan, but this version eventually fell aside in favor of the race story. The cops shot Morgan 18 times for no reason, they argued. Then, when Morgan stopped firing, the cops also decided to stop firing. They suddenly decided to let him live. One wonders, if the cops were racist shooters, wouldn’t it have been better for them to kill Morgan? What’s one more bullet after 18?

The theory from Morgan’s supporters was that, as three officers lay there wounded, they concocted a story within seconds that they agreed to, one that just happened to match the vast forensic evidence at the scene. Whisked away to various hospitals, they stuck with this story, having committed an attempted murder that would have sent them to prison for the rest of their lives.

Keep in mind that the officers from the two different cars were from different units and didn’t know each other. That didn’t matter. The narrative was that the officers nevertheless hatched their racist execution plot within seconds and went forward with it.

“Hey guys. Listen. We’re going to pull this black guy over and then kill him.”

“Sounds good. I’m in. Hey, do you know any good Chinese restaurants around here…?”

In the Crooked City, criminal cases unfold in two venues, the courtroom and the court of public opinion controlled by the wrongful conviction machine. The court of public opinion holds far more power than the criminal courts.

Facing endless accusations in the media that the shooting was a racist execution, flamboyant, race mongering attorney Sam Adams Jr. was able in the first trial to get a few jurors to hold out. He got a hung jury. Morgan was let out on bond, a man charged with four counts of attempted murder walking around free.

Years went by before the second trial got started. The court of public relations kicked into high gear. Officers who were almost murdered on the job endured weekly assaults on their character and actions in the media.

By the second trial, there was no evidence and no theory that could save Morgan. Prosecutor Dan Groth eviscerated two lawyers from the University of Chicago defending Howard. The jury came back: guilty on four counts of attempted murder. Finally after enduring years of accusations of racism and wrongdoing, the officers could confront Howard.

This is what Officer Wrigley said to him:

In preparation for today, I carefully thought what I would say in regards to a man who almost ended my life.  The truth is, it's extremely difficult to put into words, my emotions and my thoughts of not only that night, but also the effect the last several years have had on me, my family, and my friends.  

On February 21, 2005, a Chicago Police Officer went to work that night, as a man with 11 years of Law Enforcement experience.  In those 11 years, he served as a Police officer in multiple jurisdictions, and served communities of people from different races, cultures, religions, and backgrounds.  He always strived to maintain a good reputation within those communities, including Chicago, because he believed in the trust that should exist between the Police and the people it serves.  And, he always strived to do his job with fairness and compassion.  That was one of the Police Officers you encountered that night Mr. Morgan. That was me.   

The night I crossed your path I was only doing what I have done a thousand times before.  Then you made a choice...  You shot me Mr. Morgan.  I don't think we will ever know how you came to that choice, but you have shown me what type of person you are in the events that followed that night. 

What is so reprehensible Mr. Morgan, is you have shown no remorse or even an ounce of accountability in regards to your actions and choices that night.  In fact, you have done exactly the opposite.  You have attempted to lead, and you have allowed people of our community to believe you did nothing wrong.  You have attempted to hide behind the racial fears of our community, and manipulated organizations into believing that Police corruption was the cause of me being shot that night.  The very idea goes beyond reason.   You preyed upon fears and emotions, hoping to serve your own selfish agenda.  In doing so, you have further damaged the trust between our community and the Police.  But, you couldn't hide from the facts, and the truth of this case.  You are a fraud Mr. Morgan... that's also the truth.  

I will leave here today with my head held high, knowing the truth of this case.  Knowing that justice was served fairly upon you Mr. Morgan.  I will continue to serve our community as a Chicago Police Officer after this day... with pride, but above all else, with fairness and compassion.              

But this is Chicago. A conviction is never final. At a hearing before Morgan was sent off for a 40-year prison sentence, the wrongful conviction machine brought out its big guns. Jesse Jackson showed up and testified on behalf of Morgan, asking that he be released pending his appeal. Former Northwestern Innocence Project Professor David Protess also showed up, working the crowd that was supporting Howard. (Protess, who has since been fired from Northwestern for lying about wrongful conviction cases, was instructing the crowd on tactics to undermine Howard’s conviction. Protess had never even attended the trial.)

Off Morgan went to prison. He eventually lost all his appeals. And that was supposedly the end of that.

Not so. Now word comes out that Morgan’s supporters are apparently working Quinn’s office, hoping to get Quinn to pardon Morgan before Quinn leaves.

If they succeed, it would be one of the worst violations of the criminal justice system, a dirty, cowardly, shameful betrayal of the police.