Frank Main’s articleconcerning the evidence developed by Steven W. Becker and Robert M. Stephenson concerning Gacy accomplices. (February 10, 2012)View full post
James Eng’s article concerning the evidence developed by Steven W. Becker and Robert M. Stephenson concerning Gacy accomplices. (February 10, 2012)View full post
Interview with Attorneys Steven W. Becker and Robert M. Stephenson concerning newly presented evidence that John Wayne Gacy acted with accomplices. (February 9, 2012)View full post
July 15, 2011. The first District Court of Appeals reversed client’s convictions for attempt murder after it concluded that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel. At issue in the case was a client’s right to make an informed decision concerning a plea offer, which necessarily includes the right to know the sentencing range he … Continue reading »View full post
By Alexandra Johnson March 9, 2011 “Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said … Continue reading »View full post
The first District Court of Appeals reversed client’s convictions for attempt murder after it concluded that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel. At issue in the case was a client’s right to make an informed decision concerning a plea offer, which necessarily includes the right to know the sentencing range he would face, if convicted after trial. In this case, defense counsel informed his client that consecutive sentences would be “improper,” and that he faced a sentencing range of 6-30 years if convicted at trial. Based on this advice, client rejected the State’s offer of 15-years in prison. In fact, consecutive sentences were mandatory in this case, and client faced a sentencing range of 60 to 120 years.
The Appellate Court held: “Defense counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to inform defendant during plea negotiations of the maximum consecutive-term sentence he faced. Counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced defendant. This court reversed the judgment of the trial court finding counsel constitutionally effective.” In so holding, the Court reversed our client’s convictions and remanded the case for the resumption of plea negotiations and a new trial if necessary.
By Alexandra Johnson
March 9, 2011
“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said today, extinguishing a system that has sent twenty people to Illinois death row who were later exonerated, and commuting the sentences of the 15 current residents of death row to life without parole.
“You cannot have a death penalty in our state that kills innocent people. And that system was in danger of doing that in twenty cases,” Quinn said at a press conference announcing the decision.
“Thank God Governor Quinn signed the bill. There won’t be any more Anthony Porters.”
Anthony Porter, March 9, 2011
It’s a decades-long, embattled saga that finally culminated in the ban signed today in Quinn’s Springfield office-a saga Medill Innocence Project Director David Protess has been intimately engaged in since he and his students investigated the now-infamous case of the Ford Heights Four. The case involved the wrongful convictions of four African American men in the 1978 kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young couple. In the wake of their convictions, two of the men collectively spent 29 years on death row. Their ordeal, considered to be the worst miscarriage of justice in Illinois history, marked the Medill Innocence Project’s first successful death row exoneration and launched Protess’s commitment to enlisting students to illuminate wrongful convictions in capital cases.
In 1998, Protess and his students investigated the case of Anthony Porter, a man sentenced to death for a 1982 double-homicide on the South Side of Chicago. Porter had came within 50 hours of execution before receiving a temporary stay. The students uncovered new evidence of Porter’s innocence, including a recantation from the State’s star witness and a videotaped confession from the real killer, and Porter was freed two days later.
Anthony Porter’s story caught the attention of then-Governor George Ryan two months into his term, when he saw the news of Porter’s release on TV. “[Porter was] happy as hell that he’d just been released from prison after 15 years of incarceration as an innocent man,” Ryan said in a recent deposition. “And so I turned to my wife, and I said, how the hell does that happen? How does an innocent man sit on death row for 15 years and gets no relief except for the students of journalism, not law students, students of journalism at Northwestern University? Tell me how that happens. And that piqued my interest, Anthony Porter.”
Anthony Porter: Upon being freed from death row on February 5, 1999, Anthony Porter lifts Professor David Protess in an embrace as then-students Shawn Armbrust (back turned), Syandene Rhodes-Pitts and Tom McCann watch. Porter had come within 50 hours of execution before being exonerated with evidence developed by Protess and his reporting team.Upon being freed from death row on February 5, 1999, Anthony Porter lifts Professor David Protess in an embrace as then-students Shawn Armbrust (back turned), Syandene Rhodes-Pitts and Tom McCann watch. Porter had come within 50 hours of execution before being exonerated with evidence developed by Protess and his reporting team.
Inspired by Porter’s case, Ryan ordered a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois in 2000 after a lengthy investigation, citing a broken system that had exonerated as many men from death row as it had executed. In 2003, he commuted the sentences of all death row inmates to life in prison.
”Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error: error in determining guilt and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die,” Ryan said.
Since the moratorium, seven more men have been exonerated from death row, leading up to Quinn’s decision today.
“For me, this was a difficult decision, quite literally the choice between life and death,” Quinn wrote in his signing statement. “This was not a decision to be made lightly, or a decision that I came to without deep personal reflection.” In coming to his conclusion, Quinn consulted with voices on both sides of the issue, but it’s Anthony Porter’s that is most often cited as the rallying point for the abolitionist movement in Illinois.
“Oh my god! My heart just went pitter-patter,” shouted Anthony Porter upon hearing the news. “I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “I’m so, so happy. Thank God Governor Quinn signed the bill. There won’t be any more Anthony Porters.”
(Updated March 9, 2011 5:11 p.m. CST)
Steve Becker, of Becker Stephenson, entered his appearance in the Illinois Supreme Court as counsel for Johnnie Hill. The case, which will briefed in the near future, raises important questions with far ranging implications for all death penalty cases. While the Illinois Legislature recently voted to repeal the death penalty, the bill has not yet been signed by the governor. Even if it is signed, there is, as of yet, no indication that the bill will be retroactive.
Three individuals seeking to have their convictions overturned and a new trial ordered based on allegations that their inculpatory statements were procured by tortured at the hands of former Sheriff Jon Burge and his assistants, have retained Becker Stephenson. All three clients are named in the torture report, and all three cases have been remanded from the appellate court to the circuit court of cook county for stage three post-conviction proceedings.
Stanley Wrice, the longest serving alleged torture victim, has been incarcerated for more than 28 years.
Burge is scheduled to be sentenced in Federal Court on January 20, 2011.
People v. Robert Williford, No. 1-09-0741 (Rule 23 Order) (1st Dist. Jan. 4, 2011). Steven Becker obtained an order reversing the dismissal of his client’s post-conviction petition and remanding case for further proceedings because post-conviction counsel provided an unreasonable level of assistance in failing to amend defendant’s petition with an allegation of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, thus waiving defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
Steven Becker, of Becker Stephenson, Obtains Remand on Appeal in Post-Conviction Case that Leads to Exoneration of Client, People v. Patterson
People v. Maurice Patterson, No. 1-07-1251 (Order) (1st Dist. Oct. 22, 2009) Steven Becker obtained an order remanding the case to trial court for further proceedings after Becker proved on appeal that the prosecution misrepresented the results of DNA testing on the murder weapon to the trial court, and that evidence exonerated the client.
Robert M. Stephenson takes over case post-verdict, and obtains new trial in aggravated criminal sexual assault case
After a bench trial and a finding of guilty on one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault, Robert M. Stephenson, of Becker Stephenson, took over client’s defense, obtained a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel, and took the verdict up on an interlocutory appeal.