CHICAGO (CBS) — A week after 57-year-old Jackie Wilson was granted new trial in the murders of two Chicago police officers in 1982, a Cook County judge ordered him released on his own recognizance.
Judge William Hooks granted Wilson a $10,000 recognizance bond as he awaits a new trial.
“In the totality of circumstances, this court does not find Wilson to be a danger to the community or a flight risk. The state has failed to provide just and proper cause for Mr. Wilson’s continued incarceration as a pretrial condition while the retrial of the case is pending,” Hooks said. “Accordingly, Mr. Wilson is ordered to be released forthwith in the most minimal time required for the Cook County Jail and Illinois Department of Corrections to comply with this order with all due dispatch.”
Officials expected Wilson to be released by mid-afternoon. It will be Wilson’s first taste of freedom in 36 years. Wilson would only have to pay bail if he were to miss a future court date.
Wilson’s attorneys, G. Flint Taylor and Elliot Slosar, said they and Wilson were thrilled Hooks agreed to release him from custody.
“He’s very, very happy about it,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if shocked is the right word, but it is a shock to his system that after 36 years of pleading his case as a survivor of police torture, that a judge in this building has listened to him.”
Hooks said prosecutors “utterly failed” in their arguments to show Wilson likely would be convicted again and should remain in custody.
In court, prosecutors acknowledged they do not know if some of the witnesses in the case are still alive. The defense noted at least one witness has since recanted, claiming he was threatened into implicating Wilson.
Hooks issued a 120-page decision last week that said former police commander Jon Burge tortured Wilson into confessing to the slayings of officers Richard O’Brien and William Fahey.
“The law reserves a special place for physically-coerced confessions, not only because they pervert the truth-seeking function, but because they undermine the overall integrity of the trial process,” he said in court Thursday. “Since such a confession was used against Jackie Wilson to obtain his conviction, he is entitled to a new trial that confession may not be used.”
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said he was “very disappointed” Wilson was allowed to go free, and said the $10,000 recognizance bond the judge granted was “disgraceful.”
Special Prosecutor Michael O’Rourke also said he was disappointed by the judge’s ruling, but said he is prepared to take Wilson to trial.
“We are prepared, and will be prepared to retry this case, and we have every intention to do so,” he said.
O’Rourke said prosecutors are considering an appeal of the judge’s ruling granting Wilson bail, and already have filed an appeal of his decision to overturn Wilson’s conviction.
However, Taylor said prosecutors should drop the case due to a lack of evidence.
“It’s time for the special prosecutor to stop using taxpayers’ funds to promote a Burge torture case, when in fact the evidence does not support another trial,” he said.
This is the second time Wilson’s convictions have been tossed out. His first conviction was overturned when an appeals court ruled he should not have been tried alongside his brother. He was convicted at his retrial in 1989 and sentenced to life in prison.
Attorneys for Wilson argue he was beaten into giving a confession, like his brother Andrew, by Burge and his Area Two detectives—long-accused of overseeing the torture of black suspects
Wilson described the alleged torture at a court hearing at 26th and California in January.
“They beat me over the head with a dictionary, stuck a gun in my mouth. Then they did the electric shock,” Wilson said. “That came after this guy played Russian roulette with a gun in my mouth.”
Dozens of black men have accused Burge and his detectives of abuse and torture in the 1970’s and 80’s. In 2010, Burge was convicted of lying under oath about whether he ever took part in or witnessed the torture of suspects. He was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison, and released in October 2014, spending another five months in a halfway house before completing his sentence.