Sunday, January 29, 2012

Howard Morgan, shot 28 times by police, found guilty!

By Ted Pearson
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

March 28, 2012

People were stunned yesterday afternoon when jurors, after only 3 hours of
deliberation, returned a verdict of "guilty" on all counts against Howard
Morgan for the attempted murder of four policemen. Morgan had been shot 28
times by these same policemen after a routine traffic stop at 1:00 am on
February 21, 2005 in the Lawndale community on the West Side. His $1
million bail was immediately revoked and he was taken away by Sheriff's
police, who refused to allow him to even hug his daughters in the courtroom.

The more than 25 mostly white uniformed Chicago policemen who had packed the
courtroom before the verdict celebrated the racist verdict. The Fraternal
Order of Police web site posted also celebrated their "victory," which they
called "justice for our own."

Observers noted that it is not uncommon in state criminal cases that bail is
revoked pending appeals. Attorneys representing Morgan said they would
immediately file a motion for a new trial and were considering appeals of
the verdicts in both state and federal courts.

Morgan was taken to Cook County Jail's Cermak Hospital due to his damaged
condition resulting from the police shootings. He requires assistance in
walking and regular medication.

Ted Pearson, Co-Chairperson of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and
Political Repression, witnessed much of the trial testimony. Upon learning
of the verdicts he said, "It is clear that this jury of ten white people and
only two African Americans did not take any time to reviewing nine full days
of testimony by witnesses for the prosecution or the defense. They simply
wanted to go home, so they did what was expected of them by the system -
they quickly brought back the verdict of 'Guilty.' That in itself ought to
be grounds for Morgan to be granted a new trial.

"The police who tried to murder Howard Morgan should be dismissed from the
force and the U. S. Attorney should immediately launch an investigation into
the conspiracy to cover-up this heinous crime against humanity. No one,
including the Chiefs of Police, Chicago's Mayors, and the State's Attorneys
responsible for this ongoing conspiracy should be exempt from this
investigation. Current State's Attorney Anita Alvarez especially should be
brought before the bar of justice for her role in prosecuting this racist

"This case reeks of the kind of white supremacy that shocked the nation 80
years ago when nine Black teenagers were falsely accused and sentenced to
death in Alabama for the rape of two white girls on the flimsiest of
evidence. This case calls for the same level of national and international
outrage that ultimately saved the lives of those men. People who care about
democracy and fairness will demand that Howard Morgan be freed immediately
on bail, that he get a new trial, or that the ridiculous charges against him
be dropped.

"Only a loud massive public outcry can free Howard Morgan at this point.
The criminal justice system will not do it if left alone. Just as in the
case of Angela Davis, who inspired the founding of our organization 39 years
ago and who was granted bail while being held on a capital murder-conspiracy
charge, it will take a broad and irresistible demand by the people that
Morgan be allowed to make bail during his appeals, and that the charges
against him be dropped."

For the jury the case came down to whom to believe: four white rookie
policemen who did all the shooting or Howard Morgan, the young African
American woman who witnessed the police crime, and Morgan's attorneys, both
of whom are Black. The testimony given by all the witnesses was essentially
the same as that given in Morgan's first trial 5 years ago, at which he was
acquitted of aggravated battery with a firearm in the cases of all but one
of the officers, but at which the jury was deadlocked over whether or not he
had attempted to murder them.

Charice Rush was a young teenaged woman who was out late that night in
February 2005. She testified at the trial that she witnessed what happened
as she sat in her parked car in front nbear the incident. She saw the
police pull Morgan's minivan over and with their guns drawn forcibly pull
him from the driver's seat and throw him to the ground. She said she saw
them open fire on Morgan as he lay on the ground. She said that she did not
see Morgan with a gun in his hands at any time.

Morgan is an eight-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department and a
thirteen year career policeman for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Railroad. He was required to carry a weapon on his job, and he normally
carried it when on his way to and from work, as proscribed by Illinois law.

Morgan himself testified that he had been on his way to a family home he was
remolding before he had to report for work at 6:00 am that day. He pulled
over to let a police squad car with its lights flashing behind him pass, and
was surprised when instead they pulled up, got out of their car and
approached his vehicle. He said they pulled him out of his mini-van in an
unprovoked attack, grabbed the gun he carried for work from his belt, and
started shooting. He tried to tell them he was a policeman to no avail. He
said he lost consciousness after several shots.

In contrast to the story told by Rush and Morgan, Policemen Timothy Finley
and John Wrigley said they first observed the mini-van driven by Morgan
going the wrong way down a one way street with its lights off. They
followed the van with their lights flashing as it made only "rolling stops"
at three stop signs after turning onto 19th St. Another squad car with
Policemen Nick Olsen and Eric White came on the scene. When the van finally
pulled over Morgan got out of the van. They got out of their car with guns
drawn and ordered Morgan to place his hands on the side of the van. As they
patted him down he turned on them, drew a gun from his waistband and opened
fire on them. They ran for cover behind their cars and returned fire until
Morgan ran out of bullets.

However, the testimony of the police, along with a lot of the evidence
presented by the prosecution, was contradictory. Some of the police
testified that Morgan ended up lying on his back. Some of them testified he
ended up lying on his stomach. No one testified that they had turned him

Photographs of the van taken by police evidence technicians all showed that
the van was parked with its lights on. The police testified that the lights
were off all the time, which is why they said they were first drawn to the

The police said they stopped firing when Morgan ran out of bullets. Officer
Eric White, however, testified that he had stood over shot Morgan and shot
him in the back and struck him in the head after the shooting stopped "to
protect my fellow-officers," as he lay on his stomach in the street.

The police all testified that several hours after the shooting they each
engaged in "roundtable" discussions about the incident with police officials
and attorneys from the State's Attorney's office.

The prosecution guaranteed that the jury would not pay attention by
presenting a seemingly endless account of every shell casing and ever bullet
fragment found at the scene in the greatest possible detail. These included
some casings and bullets fired from Morgan's own gun. Significantly, the
police identified only three of the twenty-eight bullets taken from Morgan's
body by the surgeons who treated him at Mt. Sinai Hospital. They did not
say what happened to the other 25 bullets or if they had been kept. They
also did not keep or indentify any of the many bullets that pierced the
mini-van, which they confiscated and had destroyed (crushed) before any
forensic investigation of it could be done.

Since Morgan testified that the police had taken his gun immediately, and
when everything was over that gun's bullets had all been fired, it was a
major error not to have preserved the bullets that hit Morgan and could have
established that some of them came from his own gun fired by police.

An independent observer of the proceedings would have come away with a
picture of what happened very different from that accepted by the jury.
Howard Morgan, after a dinner at home with his family where they were living
on the South Side, decided to go to the family home he was renovating in
Lawndale on his way to work that February 21 in 2005. On his way he was
pulled over by four very young, white rookie policemen just before 1:00 am.
They had been hyped up with warnings from their superiors that Lawndale was
all Black, and was a "high risk" neighborhood.

They got out of their cars with guns drawn and pulled Morgan from his car.
They threw him to the ground. One of them saw the pistol that he was
legally carrying and shouted "Gun!" Perhaps he or another officer grabbed
it from his belt. The others immediately started firing and continued
firing until they thought Morgan was dead.

They were terrible shots in their panicked state. In addition to the 28
bullets that went into Morgan's body collapsed on the ground they fired
wildly. Countless rounds pierced the side and rear of the van, and others
ended up in furniture and walls in nearby apartments. Two of their shots
wounded their fellow officers.

In other words, they panicked and went on a rampage. It is only because of
their poor shooting and, as Morgan's wife Rosalind always pints out, the
grace of God that can be responsible for the fact that Morgan was not

Once they realized that Morgan was not dead and others arrived on the scene
they had to invent a story to explain their behavior. The "roundtable"
discussions they held later that day with representatives of the State's
Attorney and the Fraternal Order of Police helped them get their stories

They charged Morgan with attempted murder of the police and conspired to
convict him, to save their careers, their department, and the City from the
millions that would otherwise be due to their victim for the permanent
damage and terrible suffering they have put him, his family, and his
community through.

Morgan's attorneys are Randolph Stone and Herschella Conyers are both
Professors of Clinical Law at the Mandel Legal Clinic of the University of
Chicago. Stone was, for many years, the chief Public Defender of Cook

People can support Morgan's legal defense by sending checks or money orders
to the Howard Morgan Defense Fund, c/o Church of God, 1738 W. Marquette Rd,
Chicago 60636.

Morgan's address is

Howard Morgan


Cook County Jail

P.O. Box 089002

Chicago, Illinois 60608

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Howard Morgan Trial, Week Two Day One

Monday, January 23, 2012,

by Ted Pearson

Randolph Stone and Herschella Conyers, attorneys for Howard Morgan who is on trial in Cook County Criminal Court on charges of attempted murder of two policemen almost 7 years ago, were taken aback in court today when the prosecution announced that Officer William R. Walker, a prosecution witness, remembered only early this morning that he had turned the headlights of Morgan’s mini-van on after Morgan had been shot 28 times by the police he is accused of trying to kill. This is a key element in the trial. The police claim that they initially stopped Morgan in his minivan at 12:45 am on February 21, 2005 because they observed him driving the wrong way on a one way street with no headlights. The defense claims that Morgan violated no traffic laws and was driving with his lights on throughout.

Walker’s belated memory could be important for the prosecution because In very detailed and lengthy testimony Maurice Henderson, a now retired CPD forensic investigator, showed over a hundred photographs he took of the scene after Walker had left that show the headlights of Morgan’s mini-van are on.

Prosecutor Daniel Groth announced at the opening of today’s session, before the jury came in, that Walker had told them early this morning on the telephone that he suddenly remembered that he had turned on the parked van’s lights. Walker and his partner were the first to arrive on the scene at 19th and Lawndale after the hail of gunfire he heard a few blocks away had ceased. They immediately took one of the officers who had been wounded in the arm in the shooting, John Wrigley, to Stroger Hospital for treatment, but not before he stopped to turn on the lights of Morgan’s van, which was parked at the curb with the engine off. At that time he said Morgan was lying on his back beside the van, apparently unconscious. Walker would have had to step over Morgan’s body to reach into the driver’s side door and turn on the lights.

Walker had not testified at Morgan’s first trial, and said he only remembered turning on the van’s lights early this morning when he was talking with ASA Groth by telephone. He said he had kept no notes and filed no report and had only recalled this detail this morning, almost 7 years after the events.

Stone and Conyers objected to allowing Walker to testify to this late recollection, but Judge Clayton Crane said that if the defense offered evidence that the van’s lights were on throughout the incident he would allow Walker’s testimony regarding the lights in rebuttal. He said this would allow the defense a few days during the trial to investigate Walker’s claim.

Stone informed Judge Clayton that were Walker ultimately allowed to testify to this conveniently and very lately recalled memory, the defense would immediately move for a mistrial.

On the fateful day he almost died at the hands of the police Howard Morgan was going to the family home that he was remodeling in the Lawndale community. He has said he was stopped by Officers Wrigley and Timothy Finley for no apparent reason. Finley and Wrigley were white rookie policemen patrolling the all-Black community on Chicago’s West Side.

At his first trial in 2007 the jury acquitted Morgan of firing a weapon at all, but they deadlocked on the attempted murder charges. Two of the policemen were shot in the melee, but evidence showed that Morgan had fired no weapon at all. The prosecution in the case alleged that Morgan grabbed the officers’ guns and used them in addition to his own, which he carried on his way to and from his 13 year job as a policeman for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

An eyewitness to the events, Charice Rush, had testified at the first trial that she observed the events while sitting in a car parked nearby. Rush testified that she saw the police pull Morgan from his car, throw him to the ground, take his gun from his belt, and shoot him many times. A hand-written statement she had signed after being interviewed by an Assistant State’s Attorney was basically consistent with her testimony at the trial.

Rush will testify again, according to Morgan’s defense. Prior to the first trial she said she had been threatened by police who visited her at home and warned her not to testify. She had been afraid and had left town, but investigators working for attorneys representing Morgan found her and encouraged her to come forward at the trial.

Morgan was a Chicago policeman himself for eight years before taking the job with the BNSF. His father in law is Bishop of the Church of the Living God on the South Side. Morgan was a Deacon of the church and his wife’s sister is Pastor. They have deep roots in their community, which is outraged by the way they have been persecuted by the system.

Morgan’s defense team is widely recognized. Randolph N Stone is Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He directs the Criminal & Juvenile Justice Project of the Mandel Legal Clinic at the UC Law School, offering law and social work students the supervised opportunity to provide quality representation to children and adults. He was the Director of the Clinic from 1991 to 2001 and previously served as the Public Defender of Cook County.

He has also served as deputy director for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, partner in the Chicago firm of Stone & Clark, attorney with the Criminal Defense Consortium of Cook County, and as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow for the Neighborhood Legal Service Program in Washington, D.C.

Stone is a past chair of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section, and serves on several boards and committees including the Sentencing Project, Inc., the Federal Defender Program, and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. In addition to clinical legal education, his teaching and writing interests have included criminal law, juvenile justice, the legal profession, indigent defense, race and criminal justice, evidence, and trial advocacy.

Herschella G. Conyers is also Professor of Clinical Law at the UC Law School. Prior to joining the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic in the fall of 1993, Herschella G. Conyers served as an assistant public defender, a supervisor, and a deputy chief in the office of the Cook County public defender.

Supporters of civil rights, along with friends and family of the Morgans, are encouraged to attend the trial and show their support for justice. Trial proceedings start every day at 10:30 am and continue throughout the day in Courtroom 600 of the Criminal Courts Building, 2600 S. California Ave. in Chicago. Supporters of civil rights view the trial as a racist cover-up of a an attempted murder by police motivated by fear and panic.

People may also contribute to the Howard Morgan Defense Fund c/o Church of God, 1738 W. Marquette Rd, Chicago 60636.