Supporters of former police officer petition governor for his release

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Supporters of a former Chicago cop and railroad officer sentenced to 40 years in prison for attempted murder in 2012 are appealing to Gov. Pat Quinn for executive clemency before his term ends Jan. 12.

“This is a total injustice,” said Pat Hill, retired CPD officer, former executive director of the African American Police League and professor at Northeastern Illinois University.

Hill has advocated for Howard Morgan since 2005 when he was charged – and hospitalized – after being shot 28 times by four Chicago police officers during a traffic stop in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

Morgan survived and was later found guilty of shooting at the officers first.

“The problem is the court of public opinion,” Hill said. “I think our community is so overwhelmed, and many people are confused on where the issue is. And to my amazement, many people didn’t even know about (the case).”

During his 2007 trial, Morgan faced four counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm.

He was acquitted on two counts of aggravated battery and discharge of a firearm, according to the Austin Weekly News, but was later convicted in 2012 of the four counts of attempted murder.

“When he was acquitted, the primary charge was of him discharging his weapon,” Hill said. “So if you didn’t discharge your weapon, what is there left for you to be charged with,” referring to Morgan’s second trial where he was convicted.

The deadline to write letters to accompany the petition to Gov. Quinn were due to the Free Howard Morgan Campaign last month. Supporters are also requesting the governor pardon Morgan and have his record expunged.

Katie Hickey, a spokeswoman for Quinn, said the Illinois Prisoner Review Board must first review the petition before it reaches the governor’s desk. The governor “has made it a priority to regularly review, evaluate and act upon clemency petitions,” Hickey said in an email.

Quinn inherited a massive backlog of 2,838 petitions when he replaced impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009, Hickey said. And since becoming governor, he has acted on over 3,000 petitions, she said.

On or around the holidays is when Quinn takes the most action on petitions for clemency, according to the Chicago Tribune; he granted clemency to 179 on Christmas Eve. On New Year’s Eve, Quinn granted clemency to another 102, according to the Chicago Tribune. Last week, the newspaper reported that Quinn’s office has granted 1,520 clemency petitions and denied 2,752 since becoming governor in 2009.

Quinn will continue to act on clemency petitions as expeditiously as possible while giving each case the careful and thorough review it deserves, Hickey said.

Since Morgan’s trial, professor Hill continues to show support by having students from her classes at Northeastern Illinois write letters to Morgan in prison, she said.

Each semester, about 60 letters providing words of encouragement are sent  to Morgan, said Hill, who’s hopeful he will be granted clemency.

“I think the people just need to keep talking about it and keep making the governor and everybody else aware,” Hill said.

Morgan’s wife and his attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment. Both the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State Attorney’s office declined to comment as well.

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