Rep. Rush Announces Initiatives to Keep Spotlight on Burge Investigation and Unjust Death Penalty System
The following is the statement of Congressman Rush delivered at his press conference.
Former Governor George Ryan's unprecedented, courageous decision to empty Death Row and effectively abolish the death penalty in Illinois, is reverberating around the country and around the world. But no more strongly are the effects of his actions felt, than in the lives of those three men who walked out of prison, free from prison walls, free from their death sentence, and free from the enormous burden of trying to prove their innocence. Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, and Aaron Paterson, who is here with us today, are living proof that Gov. Ryan's decision was the right decision - the only decision.
These recently freed gentlemen are also living proof that the heinous and unfathomable actions of Police Commander Jon Burge, are real. Real people committed these acts and real people suffered mentally and physically as a result.
Lastly, these gentlemen are living proof that the death penalty system is fraught with inequities, plagued with injustice, and too easily used on the innocent.
For these reasons, today, on a day when we celebrate the birthday of a man who openly rejected the violence of the death penalty, I wish to announce several steps I will be taking to keep the spotlight on these issues.
First, on Monday, January 27th, our first day back to Congress, I will introduce a bill to recommend that George Ryan receive the Congressional Gold Medal. His decision, although not popular to some, showed that he is committed to fairness. He clearly understands that exacting justice from the innocent is not justice. It's murder, plain and simple. It is my opinion,
that that kind of commitment and conviction should be honored.
Second, I am sending a letter to Criminal Court Presiding Judge Paul Biebel, the judge who appointed and is overseeing the work of the Special Prosecutor investigating Jon Burge and his henchman. I am asking for swift and effective action to be taken in this case. I am also asking for a meeting with the Judge.
Last April, Judge Biebel selected Judge Ed Egan to serve as Special Prosecutor on this investigation and in nine months, we have seen little to no substantive action taken. Let's face it: Burge's actions are not in the closet anymore. In fact, they have been in the open since the early 90's when the Police Department's Office of Professional Standards found that "the preponderance of evidence is that abuse did occur and that it was systematic." So my question is, "What's the hold up in this investigation?" Everyday of inactivity, further erodes the public's trust in our system of justice and prolongs the suffering of innocent people.
Lastly, on Monday, February 3rd, I will convene a Congressional hearing in Chicago on the death penalty. I think it is only fitting to bring Members of Congress to Illinois, the state that is taking the lead on death penalty repeal, and have them fact-find and examine the enormous problems that exist with this system. Every elected official in the 38 states that still have the death penalty, have an obligation to - at the very least - rethink and reexamine their system. I want this hearing to be a first step in that process.
On Friday, in a speech delivered by Coretta Scott King, she applauded George Ryan's decision to clear death row. She further stated: "The government of the world's greatest democracy ought to set a better example."
Her words are true and Illinois can and must lead the way in America.