Chicago judge throws out Gerald Reed’s acquittal

By John Hawkins
March 2, 2020

CHICAGO — In December 2018, Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer overturned Gerald Reed’s 1991 conviction on murder charges, ruling his “confession” had been extracted through torture. Still Reed languished in jail, because prosecutors objected to his release prior to a new trial.

In a new blow to Reed and to the Bill of Rights, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hennelly flat out reversed Gainer’s ruling Feb. 14 and ordered Reed to serve the remainder of a life sentence. Hennelly was assigned to take over Reed’s case after Gainer retired.

The nearly 80 family members and supporters of Reed who were at the hearing, expecting to hear when a new trial would begin, were stunned by the judge’s decision.

Hennelly not only brushed aside Gainer’s quashing of Reed’s conviction, but called into question the findings of the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission that statements by Reed that were used to convict him were gotten through torture. The torturers were detectives who worked under notorious Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

In 2012, the commission found that cops had beaten Reed so badly that they broke a metal rod in his right leg and knee, put in after an earlier fracture.

But Hennelly insinuated the torture claims were fake and characterized Reed’s decadeslong fight to clear his name as merely an attempt to “ghost ride” on similar brutality proven against Burge and his henchmen.

Chanting “Free Gerald Reed,” Reed’s supporters marched to the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court building where they spoke to reporters. 

“I never would have thought that this judge would do what he did today,” Reed’s mother, Armanda Shackelford, told the press. “This disregard for the lives of the victims of police torture has got to stop.”

“The era of Jon Burge is not over, the cover-up continues,” said Aislinn Pulley, co-executive director of the Chicago Torture Justice Center. “If they were really about justice, Gerald Reed would be free today.”

Reed’s attorney, Elliot Zinger, challenged Hennelly’s assertion that Gainer’s decision barred only a verbal statement to detectives, not the written confession. “Where does it come from that Gerald’s right to a new trial has evaporated, and now he’s basically called a perjurer and sent back to the penitentiary?”

Special Prosecutor Robert Milan backed the judge’s decision, claiming that there is other “extensive” evidence that Reed is guilty.

Mark Clements, himself a police torture survivor who spent 28 years behind bars and is now with the Torture Justice Center, told the Militant, “If someone is forced to confess and that confession is used to convict them, then the entire prosecution is tainted and the defendant should receive a new trial.”

Family members and supporters of Reed plan to continue the fight for his release for as long as it takes.