Authorities responding to a report of a fire in an apartment building on the south side of Chicago early the morning of January 12, 1984, discovered the bodies of three adults and a child who had been bound, gagged, and stabbed to death. Within hours, police arrested half-brothers Leonard Kidd and Leroy Orange, who had been at the apartment with the victims the previous night. Kidd attributed the crime to Orange, whose former girlfriend and 10-year-old son were among the victims.
Orange initially professed innocence, saying he had left the victims in good health, but he signed a confession after 13 hours of interrogation by white police officers later shown to have engaged in torture of African American suspects. Both men were indicted.
Their cases were severed. At Orange’s trial, in the spring of 1985, the prosecution’s case rested almost entirely on his confession, which he testified had been extracted by torture — beating, suffocation, and electroshock. Against the advice of counsel, Kidd took the stand and testified that he alone committed the quadruple murder after a night of drinking, snorting cocaine, and smoking marijuana. Believing neither man, the jury found Orange guilty, and Judge Arthur J. Cieslik sentenced him to death. Three months later, Kidd pleaded guilty and also was sentenced to death by Cieslik.
After Orange’s conviction was affirmed, his attorneys filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had been deprived of effective assistance of counsel. His trial lawyer, Earl Washington, had failed to investigate extensive evidence that would have supported his torture claim. Judge Daniel M. Locallo dismissed the petition without a hearing.
However, on January 10, 2003, while an appeal was pending, Governor George H. Ryan granted Orange a full pardon based on innocence, criticizing the prosecutors and judiciary for relying on “procedural technicalities at the exclusion of the quest for truth.” Ryan also commuted Kidd’s sentence to life without parole. In 2007, a federal civil rights suit brought against the police by Orange was settled for $5.5 million.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions