*Wow, talk about driving while black. Doesn’t your brow raise from the headline alone? An ex-COP, shot, and he was in prison. Must of been a black man right? Right. And his name is Howard Morgan. The former Chicago cop had a run-in with police a decade ago and ended up being shot 28 times by them. It was mishandled/destroyed evidence that put him behind bars for 40 years – but last week his sentence was commuted.
Last Wednesday Howard Morgan walked out of a courtroom free. His clemency petition had been among 43 others heard and granted by the former Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, who was serving the final day of his term.
The details surrounding Morgan’s case remain muddy still. And with major evidence up and disappeared, well…
The story goes, however, that he was off duty from his job as a detective on Feb. 21, 2005. He worked for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line, but had previously worked as an officer with the Chicago Police Department for eight years .
On this night he was pulled over for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. From this point the story is being disputed. According to police Morgan became belligerent, and opened fire with his service weapon when he was being arrested by four officers. But Morgan contends that it was the officers that started firing at him as soon as they saw his weapon. He claims he never fired a shot, as did the only independent witness – a woman on the street who says she saw the whole thing. MSNBC reports Morgan was shot 28 times — 21 of them in his back — while three of the officers were wounded (Morgan’s attorney at the time suggested they were hit by “friendly fire”).
Morgan was found not guilty by a jury in 2007 on three counts, including discharging his weapon, but the jury deadlocked on a charge of attempted murder. Then, at a retrial in 2012, a second jury found him guilty of attempted murder and sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
This decision infuriated supporters of the ex-cop, many of whom believed Morgan was unfairly convicted because of the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause, which in general says a defendant can’t be prosecuted for the same offense twice. Critics also say physical evidence in the case, including the van Morgan was driving that night, was either destroyed or hidden. More than 40,000 people signed a Change.org petition calling for his release from prison.
“What I really believe this is is an example of driving while black,” Morgan’s current attorney Benjamin Crump told MSNBC. “And we don’t need to go much further than that.”
But even though Morgan is no longer behind bars, he doesn’t yet see himself as free. Not until his name is cleared; and this can only happen after his conviction is reversed.
An emotional Morgan spoke at a press conference last Friday confirming this.
“Right now I’m just concentrating on clearing my name, dealing with this conviction,” Morgan said, according to WGN. “Clearing it because I’m absolutely innocent of those charges.”
But one of the three officers who was wounded that night has a problem with the governor’s decision to free Morgan. The officer told ABC Chicago he doesn’t believe the governor carefully considered all the evidence in the case before making his decision.
“I was never asked any questions, never given a chance to give my side of the story or tell the facts of the case, the true facts of the case,” Wrigley told ABC.
And the Cook County State Attorney also had some harsh words for the governor.
See Morgan’s emotional press conference in the video directly below.