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Illinois’ capital punishment system was subjected to some of the most intense scrutiny yet from the state Supreme Court when its justices remanded on Thursday six death penalty cases for evidentiary hearings, a sentencing hearing, or retrial. In all, the court released opinions on eight death penalty cases, the highest number it has ever given at one time. And the grounds in those six remands ran the gamut from judicial misinterpretation of a court order, to possible prosecutorial misconduct to inadequacy of defense counsel. Of those cases remanded for evidentiary hearings, perhaps the most compelling involved defendants Aaron Patterson and Derrick King, two of the so-called “Death Row 10″ or “Burge 10,” who claim they were tortured into giving confessions by former Chicago Police Sergeant Jon Burge and officers working under his command at Area 2 Police Headquarters. The opinion ordering the hearings help not only his client, but also all cases in which there is evidence of police torture, said G. Flint Taylor, the attorney who represented Patterson. “This is the first time the Illinois Supreme Court has recognized the significance of this evidence,” said Taylor, an attorney with the Peoples Law Office. “We feel this is significant and even a landmark in the area of police torture, specifically in the area where it isn’t necessary to demonstrate there is physical injury.” Cook County State’s Attorney spokesman John Gorman said the office is “fully prepared” to comply with the court’s order of re-hearings. “We are aware of the issues raised in these cases and will litigate them before a trial judge,” Gorman said. Patterson was convicted in 1987 for the double murder of a South Side Chicago couple. King was convicted of a 1979 armed robbery and murder at a Chicago grocery store. The department’s Police Board fired Burge in 1993 after it found evidence of police brutality under his command. Among the evidence the court considered in reaching its decision in both Patterson and King was the report of the police department’s Office of Professional Standards that found torture had occurred under Burge’s command. “After reviewing the new evidence relied upon by defendant, we believe that it is material and that, as pleaded, would likely change the result upon retrial,” said the opinion written by Justice S. Louis Rathje. “In particular, we note that defendant has consistently claimed he was tortured � (and) he made this claim during his first court appearance.” People v. Aaron Patterson, No. 82711. In the case of People v. Darryl Simms, No. 86200, the court ordered that an evidentiary hearing be held to determine whether witnesses testifying during the sentencing hearing perjured themselves and that prosecutors failed to disclose the discrepancies. Simms was convicted for the 1985 rape and murder of an Addison, Ill., woman. In this case, the justices ruled that allegations of perjury by state’s witnesses were “sufficient to make a substantial showing of a constitutional violation” and that dismissal of the claims at the trial level was “improper.” During the sentencing hearing, Joseph Mogavero, a prisoner who had been serving time for a forgery conviction in the DuPage County, Ill., Jail at the same time as Simms, testified to Simms’ gang ties and his inappropriate behavior in the jail. In his petition, Simms said that Mogavero had convictions for burglary and domestic battery that were not disclosed by prosecutors, nor did they disclose a deal allegedly made in return for his testimony, the opinion said. “Had the defense known that Mogavero had pled guilty to two other offenses and that the State had, as alleged, made a promise to Mogavero in return for his testimony, the defense might have effectively impeached him,” Justice Charles Freeman wrote. Other death penalty cases the court ruled on: People v. Milton Johnson, No. 85053. The court ruled that the appeal for Johnson be rebriefed because the original briefs did not follow Supreme Court rules and lacked any citations. “Every time defendant refers to the record, he leaves to this court the task of combing through 8,000-plus pages to find the materials to which he refers,” read the opinion. Johnson was convicted for the 1983 murders of four women in a ceramic shop in Joliet, Ill. People v. Ronald R. Alvine,No. 86204. The court ruled that Alvine, convicted for the 1992 murder of a police officer struck by a Corvette stolen by Alvine, should be given a sentencing hearing. Following the reversal of Alvine’s knowing murder count and vacation of his death sentence, the court remanded the case back to the DuPage County trial court for sentencing on a felony murder conviction. The trial court sentenced Alvine to death on that conviction without a sentencing hearing. People v. Daniel Ramsey, No. 83987. The court ordered a retrial for Ramsey, convicted in Hancock County, Ill., with two counts of first degree murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault, because the amended insanity defense statute he used at trial was later found to be unconstitutional. The retrial for Ramsey must be conducted under how the insanity defense statute read prior to the amendments by the General Assembly. The court also upheld the death sentence in two cases, People v. Patrick Page, No. 83921 and 83922; and People v. Gregory Madej, Nos. 87574, 87725, 87726, and 87752.
US Supreme Court: Year In Review. September 11-26. Free Program.

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