Saturday, 12 May 2012

Johnnie Savory - Fighting On

Coalition Seeks DNA Testing For Man Who Insists He's Innocent of Murders That Occurred When He Was 14
Johnnie Lee SavoryJohnnie Lee Savory (Photo: Jennifer Linzer)

CHICAGO - Johnnie Lee Savory, 45, spent two-thirds of his life behind bars for a double murder that he says DNA testing can prove he did not commit.

The trouble is that, even though Illinois law guarantees the right to DNA testing when it is relevant to a claim of actual innocence, the courts have denied that right in Savory's case.

As a result, Savory is asking Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to order the testing, which would be paid for privately, at no cost to the taxpayers.

And today Savory was joined in his quest for DNA testing by a broadly based coalition of supporters — including five former U.S. Attorneys, 30 former prisoners who were exonerated by DNA, authors John Grisham and Studs Terkel, and arrays of business, religious, and civil rights leaders, academics, defense lawyers, and past and present and public officials.

Letters signed by the supporters — 212 in all — were released today at a press conference in the offices of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

Lawyers from the Center and the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block took on the Savory case five years ago at the behest of the late U.S. District Court Judge Prentice H. Marshall, who in retirement had taken an interest in the case and had come to believe that Savory was innocent.

Although the lawyers succeeded in obtaining Savory's release on parole on December 19, 2006, on-going efforts to obtain DNA testing through the courts have not succeeded. With those remedies exhausted, Savory's only hope of proving his innocence lies with Governor Blagojevich before whom a petition for executive clemency based on innocence is pending.

It is in that context that Savory's supporters are asking the governor to order the testing. There is precedent for that — Governor James R. Thompson did it in 1988 in the case of Gary Dotson, who as a result became the first person ever to be exonerated by DNA. Since that case, DNA has exonerated 209 additional wrongfully convicted prisoners nationally, including 25 more in Illinois.

The letter to which the exonerated lent their names notes that many of them would still be in prison and some of them might have been executed if they had been denied DNA testing, and ends with a simple plea to the governor on Savory's behalf — "We beseech you to do the right thing."

Chicago Sun-Times Story

Chicago Tribune Story

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Letter to Governor Rod Blagojevich

Letter from Exonerated to Governor Rod Blagojevich

Excerpts from Johnnie L. Savory's Clemency Petition