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Jerry Gillespie

Other Cook County, Illinois homicide exonerations
On February 10, 1993, three men wearing ski masks entered the Universal Beauty Salon at 5522 South Racine Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. One of the men struck 35-year-old Jeffrey Rodgers, a barber, in the head with a gun. Rodgers went to his knees and began begging for his life. Another of the masked men stepped forward and shot Rodgers six times in the head.

The men fled in a car. On February 18, 1993, police saw 18-year-old Jerry Gillespie sitting in a car that was the same color, make and model of a car that police believed had been used in a different homicide. The car also resembled the description of the car given by witnesses at the salon shooting.

Gillespie was taken to the police station at about 3 p.m. where he was interrogated by detectives Michael Clancy and William Foley. Gillespie said he was not involved in the shooting of Rodgers, but that he had heard about the killing from talking to fellow members of the Gangster Disciples street gang. The detectives later said that Gillespie agreed to stay at the police station until a prosecutor arrived.

A prosecutor arrived shortly after midnight and interviewed Gillespie. He provided a statement and then remained at the station until he was taken to a Cook County grand jury on the morning of February 19. He testified that a fellow gang member had told him that three other gang members, one of whom was known as “Ray-Ray,” had killed Rodgers. Gillespie testified that he had later talked to Ray-Ray, who admitted to killing Rodgers.

Before police could take Gillespie home, another suspect in the case was arrested and implicated Gillespie in the crime, saying that Gillespie had been a lookout during the shooting. Gillespie was taken back to the police station where detectives accused him of lying in his initial statement.

According to the detectives, Gillespie admitted his involvement to them, and sometime after 5 p.m., he gave a statement to a prosecutor. After 10 p.m. that night, a court reporter arrived, and Gillespie again gave a statement saying he had acted as a lookout or security while the other men committed the murder. Rodgers was killed, according to Gillespie, in retaliation because he had provided information to members of the rival Black Gangsters street gang that led to the February 8, 1993 murder of Wayne Wilson, a member of Gangster Disciples.

On February 19, 32 hours after he first came to the police station, Gillespie was charged with first-degree murder. Police said Antwan Holiday had given a statement that he was chief of security for the Gangster Disciples and that one of the gang’s leaders, Johnell Alexander, had ordered the killing to avenge Wilson. Holiday was also charged with murder, as was Jeffrey “Ray-Ray” Clarkson, Gerald Earl, and Willie Wilson, who was Wayne Wilson’s brother.

Prior to Gillespie’s trial, his attorney filed a motion to suppress Gillespie’s confession on the ground that detectives had beaten him until he agreed to confess. The motion claimed that Gillespie had not been fed or permitted to use the bathroom or make a phone call during the time he was in police custody. The motion also alleged that he was slapped in the face twice, his chair was pushed over while he was sitting in it, he was repeatedly grabbed and threatened with physical violence, and he was told that if he did not give a confession he would be beaten again.

The motion also alleged that the police kept Gillespie incommunicado by not allowing him to call his mother or an attorney and by telling his mother–who had been calling to try and locate him–that he was not in custody. The alleged abuse and coercion, according to the motion, was perpetrated by detectives including Foley and Clancy as well as detectives James Halloran, Kenneth Boudreau, Sergio Rajkovich, and Daniel McDonald.

Beginning in November 1993, the motion was litigated over the course of several months in Cook County Circuit Court. Gillespie testified three times during the hearing. He testified that during his initial interrogation on February 18, 1993, he was handcuffed to a chair. He said that he requested that he be allowed to make a phone call four or five times, but the police refused his requests.

Regarding his inculpatory statement on February 19, Gillespie testified that he was again handcuffed to a chair with his hands behind his back, and the detectives threatened that if he did not cooperate, he could get 100 years for murder. He said that Detective Foley slapped him in the face, grabbed him by the collar, grabbed him by the throat, and slapped him again. Gillespie said that he raised his leg and tried to push himself away, but Detective McDonald knocked the chair over so that he was laying on his side. Gillespie also testified that the detectives told him that if he did not go along with them, the abuse would get worse. He stated that he only gave the statement because of the abuse and threats that it would get worse. Gillespie claimed that he was never given his Miranda warnings.

On February 28, 1994, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Toomin denied the defense motion. Judge Toomin ruled there was no evidence to support Gillespie’s claim of physical coercion. The judge noted that there were no complaints of pain or discomfort at the station, and there was no medical testimony or other corroboration of any injury sustained while in police custody.

Gillespie went to trial on June 13, 1994, accused of participating in the murder by acting as a lookout. The prosecution called more than a dozen witnesses, although only one was from the salon. None of the witnesses identified Gillespie as being present at the scene. No physical or forensic evidence connected him to the crime, although police claimed that a witness to the shooting said that a gun they seized from Gillespie’s mother resembled one of the guns used in the murder.

The prosecution’s case was based on Gillespie’s confession. Detective Rajkovich testified that after bringing Gillespie back to the station from the grand jury after Gillespie had been implicated by another suspect, he handed Gillespie off to Detective Clancy, and that was the last contact he had with Gillespie.

Detective Clancy testified that before his initial interview of Gillespie, he read him his Miranda rights. Clancy said that at approximately 7:00 p.m. on February 18, 1993, his partner went to McDonald’s and brought back food for Gillespie.

A prosecutor read to the jury Gillespie’s first statement, in which he denied involvement, but said he learned about the crime from Ray-Ray. Another prosecutor read Gillespie’s grand jury testimony, which also described Gillespie talking with Ray-Ray and learning that Ray-Ray (and two others) had shot Rodgers.

Detective McDonald said that on the afternoon of February 19, after Gillespie was brought back from the grand jury, he read Gillespie his rights and then interviewed him again about the murder. McDonald said that after that conversation, he gave Gillespie the McDonald’s food to eat. McDonald said that he then called for a prosecutor, who arrived and spoke with Gillespie sometime after 7:00 p.m. McDonald testified that after that interview, Gillespie agreed to give a court-reported statement.

McDonald said Gillespie gave a court-reported statement at 10:40 p.m., and that after the statement was transcribed, Gillespie reviewed it and was allowed to make corrections.

McDonald testified that Gillespie volunteered to add his own handwritten paragraph on the last page, explaining that when he had testified in front of the grand jury, he had left out his own involvement in the murder.

Detective Boudreau was not involved in the interrogations of Gillespie, but he testified that he recovered a gun from Gillespie’s mother, after she had come to the police station on February 20. Boudreau testified that he then showed the gun to eyewitness Colleen Lashley, who identified it as being similar to the type of weapon that was used by one of the assailants in the beauty shop.

Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Nelson testified that she read Gillespie his rights before speaking with him on February 20, and that he responded that he understood his rights. She said she had a private conversation with Gillespie during which he said he had not had any problems and had been fed McDonald’s food. She said that he asked for another RC Cola, which she went and got for him.

Nelson testified that Gillespie gave his court-reported statement from 10:40 to 10:55 that night, and then reviewed the transcription to make any changes or corrections he felt necessary. After going over the changes, Gillespie added the paragraph at the end. Nelson read the statement to the jury, after which the prosecution rested its case. The defense called Detective Halloran, who said that no witnesses had picked Gillespie out of photographic lineups conducted by police in an attempt to identify the gunmen. Terrence Parks, a friend of Gillespie’s, testified that he was driving around with Gillespie at the time of the murder. Gillespie’s mother, Maxine Franklin, testified about her efforts to locate her son after he was arrested and said that the gun she turned over to the police had been stored in a locked gun case.

Gillespie testified that he and Parks were driving around at the time of the murder and that he did not participate as a lookout. He said that on February 18, detectives approached him with guns drawn, put him in handcuffs, and then transferred him to a prisoner transport wagon to take him to the police station.

Gillespie said he asked to call his mother but was not allowed. After he gave his first statement, he was put in a room and kept there all night. He said he was not given the option of going home. He said they didn’t ask him if he was willing to testify before the grand jury, but just took him there.

Gillespie testified that back at the station, the detectives told him that the information he had given them was not enough, and that he would have to tell them that he was involved or that he had seen something. He said there were about five detectives present at the time, but he could only remember the names of Detectives Foley and Clancy. Gillespie continued to deny any involvement and told the detectives that he could not give them any more information. The detectives, particularly Foley, started to become upset with him. Gillespie said Foley began grabbing him by the collar and choking him around his neck.

When Gillespie told Foley to keep his hands off of him, Foley handcuffed him behind his back to the chair. Foley then slapped him twice in the face. Gillespie said Foley got right in front of his face, so Gillespie tried to push himself away with his leg. At that point, another detective came over and knocked the chair over so that Gillespie was lying on his side, still handcuffed to the chair. The detectives then threatened him with further violence and told him he could get 60-100 years just for being around the other gang members. Gillespie said he eventually told them what they wanted to hear and that the detectives told him what to say, which became the account he gave to the prosecutor.

The prosecution called Detectives McDonald and Foley in rebuttal. Both denied that Gillespie was physically abused.

During closing arguments, the prosecution argued that gang leader Alexander had ordered the shooting of Rodgers.

On June 16, 1994, the jury convicted Gillespie of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Ultimately, several others were convicted, including Willie Wilson and Clarkson, who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. In June 1997, the First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Gillespie’s conviction and sentence.

Later that year, Gillespie filed a post-conviction petition. It was dismissed. In 1999, he filed an amended petition citing the physical abuse, including the claim that Foley was the officer who had choked him and also had threatened to burn him with a cigarette. The petition also cited a 1990 report authored by Michael Goldston (the Goldston Report, released in 1992) for the Chicago Police Department of Professional Standards that detailed allegations of physical torture by Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge and officers under his command. The report listed the names of 50 alleged victims of torture.

In May 2000, the petition was dismissed. The court ruled that the officers involved in the alleged abuse were not specifically identified in the report, and therefore Gillespie’s allegations were insufficient. The court also noted that the Goldston Report related to allegations of police detectives in Area Two in the 1980’s, while Gillespie was interrogated at Area One in 1993. And the court also noted that the trial court had found no factual support for Gillespie’s claims. The court held: “Since the petition and exhibits fail to demonstrate that the prior allegations of police brutality were not unduly remote, were against the same officers or similar to the allegations put forth by petitioner, or any evidence of injury consistent with police brutality...,” the claims did not warrant an evidentiary hearing.

Gillespie appealed the court’s decision, but it was affirmed on December 31, 2003.

In 2007 and 2008, Gillespie filed separate additional post-conviction petitions. By this time, Gillespie had obtained affidavits from Clarkson (in 2007) and Willie Wilson (in 2008). Both said they committed the murder and that Gillespie was not involved.

Clarkson said he planned the retaliation murder of Rodgers. “Rodgers was selected because he provided information to the Black Gangsters who shot and killed Wayne [Wilson],” Clarkson said. He said he chose Willie Wilson and another gang member he knew only as “Eric” to take part.

Clarkson said that when they entered the salon, Wilson fired a shot into the ceiling, and everyone froze. “I struck Rodgers in the head with the butt of my gun,” Clarkson said.

“Rodgers fell down into a kneeling position…then started begging for his life.”

Clarkson said Wilson and “Eric” started shooting Rodgers. “Jerry Gillespie was not involved with the shooting of Jeffrey Rodgers,” Clarkson said. “He had nothing to do with it.”

Wilson, in his affidavit, recounted how he and “Eric” and Clarkson went inside the salon. “I shot Rodgers six times on the right side of his head,” Wilson said. “After the first shot, Rodgers was begging for his life. I continued to fire another five shots. Jerry Gillespie was not involved in the murder…Jerry Gillespie was not at the Universal Beauty Salon on February 10, 1993.”

These petitions were denied.

In 2009, Gillespie, by then represented by attorney Andrea Lyon, filed another petition for relief. This petition re-asserted the claims of physical abuse as well as evidence that police had interviewed Alexander and that Alexander had denied any involvement in the murder or ordering the murder. A police report of the interview had never been disclosed by the prosecution. The petition also cited numerous other cases of alleged brutality by Detectives Foley and McDonald. The petition contained about 2,000 pages of exhibits. After extensive litigation, in 2010, the petition was denied. Lyon appealed, but the denial was affirmed.

In 2005, Gillespie had filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but the petition had been put on hold while the claims in his 2009 state petition were litigated. After the state petition was dismissed, Gillespie returned to federal court. There, the U.S. District Court denied the petition. A request to appeal to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court Appeals would be denied in 2014.

In 2009, after years of political and legal battles, Illinois established the Torture Inquiry Relief Commission (TIRC) to review defendants' claims that they were tortured and otherwise physically abused by detectives during interrogations. While initially established to investigate claims of torture by Burge and officers under his command, the scope was expanded to other cases involving claims against detectives such as Foley, Halloran, McDonald, and Boudreau. Lyon also filed a claim with the TIRC on Gillespie’s behalf. The case stretched out for several years. Gillespie, for example, was interviewed in 2016. He was no longer in prison, having been released on parole on March 17, 2014.

In February 2022, the commission concluded that Gillespie had established a credible claim of being physically coerced to falsely confess.

“The accused detectives–Foley in particular–have a significant history of allegations of torture, coercion, and procuring false confessions,” the decision said. “As noted, several of the individuals making such claims ultimately had their convictions vacated after spending many years in prison. Moreover, there are allegations against Foley that bear similarity to Gillespie’s allegations. Much of the pattern and practice evidence addressed in this determination had not been considered by the courts reviewing Gillespie’s post-conviction petitions. The extensive pattern and practice evidence supports Gillespie’s claim.”

The commission referred the case for an evidentiary hearing in Cook County Circuit Court.

On February 21, 2024, two years later, Lyon and Gillespie appeared before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Alfredo Maldonado. Lyon noted that the prosecution had reviewed the case and was prepared to agree to dismiss the case.

Assistant State’s attorney Linda Walls agreed, saying that the prosecution had conducted “an exhaustive investigation.” She said that the State’s Attorney’s Office had reviewed the commission’s decision and “we do not have confidence in this conviction.”

Judge Maldonado then vacated Gillespie’s conviction, and Walls moved to dismiss the case. That motion was granted. “So, Mr. Gillespie, as I am sure you are aware, these proceedings are now over, the conviction has been vacated, you no longer have a conviction. Good luck to you, sir.”

“Thank you,” Gillespie said. “Thank you.”

Lyon subsequently filed a petition seeking a certificate of innocence, a prerequisite to filing a claim for compensation from the state of Illinois. On April 12, 2024, the certificate was granted.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/18/2024
Last Updated: 4/18/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Sentence:40 years
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No