PATTERSON ON DEATH ROW
Chicago Tribune Thursday December 17, 1998
Convicted Killer Wins Support In Battle To
Overturn Death Sentence
Hearing sought on allegations of police brutality.
By Steve mills, Tribune Staff Writer
For years, Aaron Patterson has battled his 1987
double murder conviction and death sentence with little of the
attention or support that has surrounded some of the other Death
Row prisoners in Illinois.
But now support for Patterson is growing, as questions are being raised about his case, which is under appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, and about the tactics of the Chicago police department detectives who arrested him.
Last week, two groups filed amicus curiae, or friends-of-the-court briefs, on Patterson's behalf, asking the state Supreme Court to send his case back to Cook County Circuit Court for a hearing on allegations that detectives physically beat Patterson and concocted his alleged confession.
The briefs were filed by a committee led by Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School, and by the London based International Center for Criminal Law and Human Rights.
"Its a case that I think has some obvious significance in a broad way for the administration of capital punishment in Illinois," Bowman said. He noted that the cases of nine other Death Row prisoners were investigated by some of the same detectives who investigated Patterson.
Patterson and Eric Caine were convicted of first degree murder for the 1986 slayings of Vincent and Rafaela Sanchez of South Chicago. Both were stabbed to death. Patterson was sentenced to death, while Caine got a life sentence.
Patterson and his lawyers charge that he was beaten by detectives led by Lt. John Burge, who was fired on charges of physically abusing murder suspects. A city inquiry found "systemic" abuse by detectives working for Burge.
They also say evidence that might exonerate Patterson is missing, while a key witness in the case told the Tribune that prosecutirs had threatened to put her in jail unless she testified falsely against Patterson. Prosecutors have denied this. No physical evidence linked Patterson to the killings.
The Bowman committee includes more than 50 attorneys and other people, from Barry Scheck, the Cardozo Law School professor who worked on the O.J Simpson trial, to Bianca Jagger, a human rights activist and former wife of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger.
Tim Lohraff, one of Patterson's attorneys said he hoped the briefs would catch the attention of the court, letting the justices know the case was being watched closely by a public fed up with questionable capital prosecutions.
"They indicate the public is tired of innocent people being put on Death Row," he saidm " It makes it a little harder for them to do the wrong thing."
Bowman said he was not sure how the justices would read the brief. "But I hope they'll read the amicus brief and be persuaded by the arguments in it, which I think are clear and straightforward and frankly obvious."
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