Tribune, WBEZ investigate State’s Attorney candidate Burke’s role in Black child’s wrongful murder conviction

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Tribune, WBEZ investigate State’s Attorney candidate Burke’s role in Black child’s wrongful murder conviction (Chicago, IL) — Recent investigative reporting by WBEZ and the Chicago Tribune details the wrongful conviction of an 11-year-old Black child in a prosecution helmed by current Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Eileen O’Neill Burke.

Burke, the Assistant State’s Attorney on the 1994 prosecution, drove the effort to charge the boy with first-degree murder in the brutal killing of 83 year-old Anna Gilvis.

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John Heiderschedit, Criminal Defense Attorney; Subscription Lawyer; Chicago Lawyer
  • WBEZ: “A blood trail signaled the 173-pound victim had been dragged from the kitchen to the bathroom, one of the boy’s appellate attorneys said. At the time, [the boy]. was 5 feet 1 inch and 88 pounds. A bloody palm print was on the bathroom wall and a bloody shoe print was on the back porch. Neither could be matched to the boy, his appellate attorney said. Despite apparent struggle and ransacking, none of the boy’s fingerprints were found.”
  • Tribune: ​​”During questioning at trial, [the boy] said he admitted to the murder under duress and because Cassidy assured him that, if he told the truth, he could go home for his little brother’s birthday party.”
  • According to Tribune reporting, O’Neill Burke invoked a racially charged trope to describe Black people as criminal predators: “Our juvenile criminal act was written at a time when kids were knocking over outhouses, not killing people,” O’Neill Burke said at the time. “We’re looking at a whole new breed here.”
  • Tribune: [Judge Rebecca] “Pallmeyer ruled in June 2002 that the boy’s arrest was illegal and his confession should have been thrown out because it was coerced. The boy was never free to leave the station where he was being questioned and authorities should have questioned him in front of his parents or a police youth officer.”

“My opponent’s role in this wrongful conviction should raise concerns about her judgment for every voter in Cook County. The young man’s life was derailed. The family of the victim also never got justice, as her true killer was never caught or prosecuted,” said Clayton Harris III, Democratic candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney. “Even today, with the benefit of hindsight, my opponent has expressed no regret over her handling of that case. This is worrisome, and it’s not the sort of leadership we need in the State’s Attorney’s office.”

Tribune, WBEZ investigate State’s Attorney candidate Burke’s role in Black child’s wrongful murder conviction

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