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Judge says defense was competent, will review police torture in death row case

Aaron Patterson’s lawyer may have used poor strategy but was not technically 'ineffective', said a judge today in turning down the first of two appeals for a new trial for the death row inmate. The court will next review the core issues in Patterson's 1989 murder conviction -- sweeping evidence of police torture by top cop Jon Burge and his associates.
(See the website link for background on the case of death row inmate and police torture victim Aaron Patterson.)

Death Row inmate Aaron Patterson’s defense attorney was competent, although in hindsight his judgment about case strategy may have been wrong, said a judge this afternoon in turning down Patterson’s appeal for a new trial based on the charge of ineffective counsel.

The ruling by Cook County Circuit Court judge Michael Toomin asserted that, while Patterson’s trial attorney, public defender Brian Dosch, may have made missteps in strategy, those missteps did not meet the legal test of ineffective assistance of counsel.

The ruling was a disappointment but not a total surprise to Patterson’s defense attorneys and supporters. Patterson has long asserted that his 1989 murder conviction was based on the prosecution’s presentation of false evidence – including an unsigned ‘confession’ that police fabricated after they tortured him, and the testimony of a single witness who has since recanted her testimony twice in the case.

Patterson’s attorneys and supporters have vowed to press forward with the second component of their appeal for a new trial – the existence of a systematic pattern of torture at Area 2, where Patterson was interrogated, and the fact that Patterson was tortured by police. Both issues were remanded back to circuit court for consideration by the Illinois Supreme Court.

“It would have taken some courage on the part of the judge to rule in our favor today, and he didn’t show it,” said Chris Bergin of the Aaron Patterson Defense Committee.

“One of the key culprits in the courtroom twelve years ago was Judge John Morrissey, a former prosecutor, who rebuffed every effort by Aaron’s defense team to introduce evidence of his torture – including photos of a statement he etched in a bench with a paperclip less than an hour after his torture that detailed his abuse,” added Bergin. “Morrissey repeatedly refused to admit evidence supporting Aaron’s innocence, and also consistently tolerated what can only be characterized as sweeping prosecutorial misconduct on the part of assistant state’s attorney Jack Hynes and his legal team. We’re disappointed, but we can at least hope that the meat of this case – clear evidence of police torture and police and prosecutorial misconduct – will finally be heard in open court.”

Patterson’s defense team will return to court on April 22 to begin to set procedural ground rules for the next round of appeals.
 
 

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