On this day 20 years ago, Victor Safforld was sentenced to the death penalty over accusations he murdered two people. But accompanied by the daughter who was born just months before that arrest, Safforld on Tuesday evening walked out of jail, tasted freedom and began clearing his name.
On this date 20 years ago, a man who claimed he was tortured by police into confessing to the murder of two men was sentenced to the death penalty.
But accompanied by the daughter who was born one month after he was incarcerated, Victor Safforld on Tuesday evening walked out of jail, tasted freedom and began clearing his name.
"There's a lot more brothers in prison, languishing, that are here unjustly, so the fight continues," Safforld said.
Safforld has long claimed he was tortured by Chicago police officers under the command of Jon Burge. Hoping to make the abuse stop, Safforld signed a confession using a fake name -- Cortez Brown. He said he hoped that using someone else's name would somehow show that his confession was neither voluntary nor true.
Instead, the made-up name helped convict him in the shooting deaths of Curtis Sims and Delvin Boelter. He was sentenced to death in the Boelter case, but Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentence to life in prison in 1993.
Safforld's release Tuesday comes after the acceptance of a May plea deal. Safforld agreed to plead guilty in the Sims case in exchange for having the Boelter murder charge dropped and credit for time already served.
"I'm not bitter. God always comes on time," he said to reporters.
He said having to accept the deal, rather than wait for a new trial to completely exonerate him, was a tough decision but a necessary one. He said he wants to stop being a "dead beat dad" and be with his daughter. New trials likely would have kept him in jail for several more years.
Former police Cmdr. Burge was convicted in June of perjury. He was accusing of lying in a 2003 civil suit when he said that he'd never seen or participating in torturing suspects in the 70s and 80s.
"He has to be able to accept his medicine," Safforld said when asked about Burge's conviction.
Burge faces up to 45 years in prison and will be sentenced Nov. 5.
Safforld was released after posting $2,500 bail in connection to a separate case that happened this May. He's accused of striking a correctional officer in that incident.