Finally free after 18 years

14Jul09

Legal4originally published: 8th July 2009

In A long overdue victory, Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves were freed from an Illinois prison on July 7 after nearly two decades behind bars.

Ronnie and Marvin were convicted of the 1988 murder of two women and three children. Prosecutors alleged that the murders were sparked by a debt one of the women allegedly owed Ronnie. But the case against the men rested mainly on a “confession” obtained from Kitchen under the watch of former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge.

As commander, Burge oversaw the beatings and torture of dozens of suspects, all of them Black men, at Area 2 and 3 police headquarters during the 1970s and ’80s.Burge and his subordinates used electroshock, suffocation and severe beatings in order to extract confessions.

Ronnie testified that he was beaten with a blackjack and a telephone book, and was told by one of the officers during his interrogation, “We have ways of making niggers talk.”In addition, prosecutors used testimony from a jailhouse snitch, Willie Williams, who claimed Ronnie had confessed to him. Williams later admitted this was a lie.Most of Burge’s victims were railroaded into prison, and some, like Ronnie, found themselves on death row as a result of the confessions extracted through torture.

In all, Ronnie spent 13 years on death row–until his death sentence was commuted to life without parole by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan in 2003.Kitchen’s coerced confession implicated Marvin Reeves, who was convicted on the basis of this “evidence” and sentenced to five life terms in prison without parole.

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