After a Cook County judge granted him a new trial, lending credence to his claims of torture at the hands of notorious police Cmdr. Jon Burge, convicted killer Gerald Reed hoped to be home with his family for the first Christmas in three decades.
After all, repeated Burge convictions have been thrown out of court, and Reed and his lawyers hoped prosecutors would simply drop the case.
But it was not to be.
At a brief hearing Friday morning, special prosecutor Robert Milan told Judge Thomas Gainer it was his intention to put Reed on trial again. And after court, Reed’s mother Armanda Shackleford wailed in disbelief.
“I’m very angry!” Shackleford shouted. “You haven’t did enough to my son already?”
Reed has been imprisoned for 28 years, for the 1990 murders of Pamela Powers and Willie Williams on Chicago’s south side. He has long contended he was beaten into confessing by detectives under the command of Burge---so much so that a rod which he already had in his leg was broken.
On Wednesday, Gainer noted Reed had been seen lying on the floor of the jail’s intake area and had told a correctional officer he was beaten by police. He ordered a new trial for the inmate, who appeared before him shackled in a wheelchair, and will mark his 55th birthday on Saturday.
The judge had given prosecutors until Friday to announce whether they would, in fact, re-try the case. After Milan announced in open court that it was their intention to do so, Reed’s attorney immediately filed a motion for bond, and the judge set a hearing on the matter for Jan. 9.
And that prompted a loud protest by Reed’s family in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courts Building.
“I’m very disappointed!” his mother cried. “I was looking for Gerald home to be with me, and his family, on Christmas day!”
Supporters have long contended the evidence against Reed was thin. Prosecutors alleged the pin in his leg could have been broken through the bone’s natural healing process. And have made clear they will attempt to prove his guilt again at trial.
“They’re in the litigation business,” defense attorney Elliot Zinger told reporters. “The more litigation they can get, the bigger the paycheck is. We’re going to go back and we’re going to beat them again at trial.”
His guilt temporarily erased, Reed will be released from Stateville Prison, where he was housed, and will be moved to Cook County Jail to await the next move by the courts.
“Out of this building just this week alone, two other people walked out who were tortured by police,” said Mark Clements, who has long maintained he was beaten into a confession. “This is one of the most depressing times of the year for anybody. And to leave him inside a prison during Christmastime? All of these people are Scrooges!”
Friday's hearing will be one of the last for Gainer, who is retiring at year’s end. That means when the bond is hearing is held in two weeks, it will be before a new judge who has had no previous contact with the case.