In 1990, Gerald Reed was convicted of a double murder after signing a confession that he says he was tortured into signing. He was sentenced to life in prison. But today, Reed is a free man after his life sentence was commuted by Governor J.B. Pritzker (D-Ill.).
Reed was granted a new trial in 2018, but a judge ruled prior to a scheduled retrial that his allegedly coerced confession was never used against him in court, so Reed suffered no infringement on his rights. He was awaiting retrial when Pritzker commuted his sentence.
Reed’s co-defendant in the trial is still in prison serving a life sentence. He never alleged any torture at the hands of the police.
Reed had maintained he was tortured by officers belonging to the unit of notorious police Commander Jon Burge, who was alleged to have tortured up to 200 prisoners between 1972 and 1991. A rash of civil suits against Burge and the police department resulted in more than $83 million getting paid out to torture victims.
The reason Reed’s confession was never used in his trial is that ballistics and other evidence tied him directly to the murders of Pamela Powers and Willie Williams.
Special Prosecutor Robert Milan has argued that the ballistics data and other evidence was enough to prove Reed’s guilt.
Milan noted that Pritzker’s office did not notify him or the victim’s families about the governor’s decision to release Reed, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Clearly, in Illinois, violent offenders are treated with more respect than the victims of crime,” Milan wrote in a statement, the newspaper reported.
The TV character Hank Voight in Chicago PD is partially based on the actions of Burge and his team and he has contributed to the stereotype of the beefy, white Chicago cop going outside of the law to get the job done. But the facts are obscured by the stereotype. Reed is taking advantage of a Democratic governor who is prone to believe black activists over law enforcement.
Reed reportedly bragged to witnesses after the crime that he killed the couple. That, as well as the ballistics evidence, would have convicted any defendant in the country. The alleged tortured confession was never used in his trial and the jury never heard it. They convicted Reed based on the evidence.
Reed should not be walking the streets of Chicago while his victims’ families still mourn their loss.