Gerald Reed

Chicago Man Convicted of Double Murder Walks Free After 29 Years Behind Bars

Gerald Reed's sentence was commuted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker after spending 29 years in prison

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A man who claims he was framed by Chicago police detectives for a 1990 double murder walked free Friday after spending 29 years behind bars.

Gerald Reed reunited with his mother and other family members after nearly three decades at Statesville prison, following Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker commuting his sentence on Thursday.

"Oh happy day...I didn’t think it would ever get here," said Armanda Shackleford, Reed's mother. "One of the best days of my life. I’m proud of Gerald, because he didn't give up."

Gerald Reed was granted a new trial in 2018 on claims he was tortured into a false murder confession by detectives working for notorious police commander Jon Burge. But last year, Cook County Judge Thomas Hennelly ruled the Reed, 57, should stay in prison because the statement resulting from the alleged abuse was never used against him during trial, so his rights were never violated.

Special Prosecutor Robert Milan has claimed even without Reed’s confessions, there was ample evidence Reed killed Pamela Powers and Willie Williams, including ballistics evidence linking him to the murder weapon.

Reed has spent 29 years in prison for the deaths of Powers and Williams. Defense attorney Elliot Zinger says despite the commutation, he will continue to push to have Reed’s conviction vacated.

Reed’s attorney, Sheila Bedi of Northwestern University Law School, said she was told by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton that Reed will be coming home from Stateville Correctional Center, where he was imprisoned. Bedi said she filed a petition for Reed’s release last year on the basis his health was endangered by the spread of COVID-19 in prison. She also noted Reed was a model prisoner.

“This does not mean Mr. Reed has abandoned his effort to clear his name,” Bedi said of the commutation.

After his release, Reed said he forgives those who he says tortured him and that he plans to commit his life to help young people avoid a life in prison. He added that he hopes to work to get his friends also released from their sentences.

Members of Burge’s crew have been accused of torturing suspects between 1972 and 1991. Burge died in 2018. The city of Chicago has paid tens of millions of dollars to Burge victims.

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