At an emotional and celebratory press conference Friday, Howard Morgan, the Chicago man who was shot 28 times by police then convicted of attempted murder, maintained his innocence after having his sentence commuted earlier this week.
“Right now I’m just concentrating on clearing my name,” Morgan said, “because I’m absolutely innocent of those charges.”
Morgan was freed Monday after outgoing Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn commuted his 40-year prison sentence. He is now working with lawyers to have his conviction reversed.
“He was no criminal when I married him, and he’s no criminal now,” said Morgan’s wife, Rosalind Morgan, who led the fight for his freedom.
Quinn hasn’t explained the reason for his decision, which angered some police unions, as well as one of the officers wounded in the incident. But Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Morgan, said Quinn was well within his rights.
“What Governor Quinn did was not secretive or mysterious in any way,” said Crump. “It’s what the constitution of this state gives him the power to do.”
“There were thousands and thousands of people who signed the petition after they looked on the record as to what took place,” Crump added.
“What I really believe this is is an example of driving while black,” said Crump. “And we don’t need to go much further than that.”
In 2005, Morgan, a former Chicago police officer who was working as a railroad detective, was stopped by four police officers while driving the wrong way on a one-way street near his home. From there, a scuffle ensued, leading to gunfire. Police said Morgan was belligerent and fired first, while Morgan said police started firing as soon as they saw his gun, and denied firing a shot. In the end, Morgan was shot 28 times, 21 in the back, while three officers were wounded.
At a 2007 trial, Morgan was found not guilty of discharging his firearm, but there was no verdict on a charge of attempted murder. At a second trial, a jury convicted Morgan on the attempted murder charge. He was sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
Lawyers for Morgan, 63, have said key evidence was suppressed at trial, and have complained about double jeopardy.
Morgan’s supporters have said his case is an example of the kind of over-zealous policing that lately has been in the national spotlight thanks to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and several other unarmed blacks.
But John Wrigley, one of the officers who was shot, told a local news station he has questions for Quinn.
“Why do you think he needed to be released? Why do you think he deserved to be released? Did you sit in on the trial? Did he look at the details of this case? I don’t think he did,” Wrigley said.
Morgan’s was one of 43 clemency petitions that Quinn, a Democrat, granted Monday just before leaving office.