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Gerald Reed

Exonerations with Misconduct by Burge and his detectives
In the early morning hours of October 2, 1990, police found 19-year-old Pamela Powers lying half-naked in a viaduct at 250 West Normal Parkway near Kennedy-King College on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. She had been shot twice in the head, but was still alive. She was taken to the hospital where she died.

About 10 hours later, the body of 59-year-old Willie Williams was found in Powers's apartment in the 6800 block of South Perry Avenue, about a half-mile from where Powers was found. The apartment had been ransacked, and Williams had been shot in the head and chest.

Witnesses told police that on the night of October 1, 1990, just hours before Powers was found, they had seen Powers and Williams in the company of 29-year-old David Turner and 26-year-Gerald Reed.

On October 3, 1990, police brought Reed in for questioning. He was handcuffed to a ring bolted to a wall in an interrogation room. Two detectives, Michael Kill and Victor Breska, were assigned the case. At the time, they were working under the supervision of Jon Burge, who was commander of the homicide unit.

After several hours, the detectives said Reed had signed a written statement confessing that he and Turner had killed the victims.

Reed and Turner were charged with murder, aggravated unlawful restraint, home invasion, burglary, and aggravated kidnapping.

Prior to trial, Reed filed a motion seeking to suppress his confession. He asserted that when he asked for a lawyer, Kill left the interrogation room. At that point, Reed said, Breska kicked the chair out from under Reed and began kicking him repeatedly in his right leg and lower back. At the time, Reed had a metal rod in his leg that had been inserted after he had been shot several years earlier. The rod was attached to his knee by metal screws. Reed said Kill told him that unless he cooperated, he would be sentenced to the death penalty.

Reed was taken to the Cook County Jail. Several months later, in April 1991, an x-ray of his leg showed the rod was broken and two of the screws were loose. Reed testified at the hearing about the beating, and the defense presented the x-rays. The motion was denied, however, when the judge ruled there was no proof the rod was broken during the interrogation. The break could have happened earlier, the judge ruled.

In December 1990, Turner, who had not complained of being abused, and Reed went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. Reed chose to have his case decided by a jury, and Turner chose to have his case decided by the trial judge. The prosecution sought the death penalty.

Lille Bell testified that she lived across the street from Powers. She said that around 7 p.m. on October 1, she and her neighbor, Mia Grover, walked over to visit Powers. She said that Powers was fully dressed and wearing shoes. Bell said that Turner and Reed were also there. Bell said Williams arrived 15 minutes later.

According to Bell, the six of them stayed at Powers’s apartment for a while, and then everyone, except Williams, left. Bell said Grover and Powers went to Bell's apartment across the street while she went with Reed and Turner to Turner’s house at 315 West Marquette Road to check on Turner's son. Bell said that they took a shortcut to Turner's house through a viaduct at Kennedy-King College.

Bell testified that she and Turner and Reed returned to Bell's apartment at around 9:30 p.m. Grover joined them for a few drinks, and they remained for about 20 minutes. Bell said that she and Grover then went to the store, and when they returned to Bell's apartment 20 minutes later, Turner and Reed were still there. Bell said Turner and Reed left shortly thereafter. She said she and Grover went to a neighbor's apartment.

Bell said that sometime later, Turner came to her apartment. Not long after, Reed and Powers joined them, she said. Bell testified Powers looked “freaked out,” and she was not wearing shoes or a coat. Bell said that Powers walked as Reed guided her into the bathroom. Bell said she heard Reed ask, “Where is the money?” Bell said she also heard Reed ask Turner, who was about 15 feet away from the bathroom, to find some shoes for Powers. At this point, Bell said she took her bottle of wine and went to her neighbor’s apartment. When Bell returned to her apartment 40 minutes later, Reed, Turner, and Powers were gone.

According to Bell, Turner and Reed returned to Bell’s apartment approximately 40 minutes later, without Powers. Bell testified that when she asked Turner about Powers, Turner told her Powers was gone and that Reed said that she had run off.

Bell also testified that she kept a "community gun," a .357 magnum, in her closet. She said she had seen the gun in the possession of Turner and Reed on several occasions. The gun was never found. Bell testified that, two weeks prior to the murders, she had accidently fired the .357 magnum while she and Turner were handling it, and the bullet became lodged in the hallway wall.

Mia Grover testified that when she was at Powers’s apartment at the beginning of the evening on October 1, Powers said that Williams was on his way to the apartment to bring them money. According to Grover, Williams arrived 15 minutes later and gave some money to Powers.

At 11 p.m., Grover said she was in the hallway outside her apartment when Reed and Powers came up the stairs on their way to Bell’s apartment. Grover said Powers was wearing a sweater and blue jeans, but no shoes. According to Grover, Powers looked scared, and she did not respond when Grover asked her what was wrong. Powers and Reed went into Bell’s apartment, and Reed closed the door.

Grover said she stood outside the door and heard Turner, who was already in Bell’s apartment, say, “We are not going to have this shit, bitch.” Grover then heard Reed mention something about a car. Turner responded that he did not need a car and then said, “I will drop this bitch behind Kennedy-King.” Grover said she went back to her apartment, and when she returned to Bell’s apartment 30 minutes later, no one was there.

Grover testified that at about 1 a.m., she went back to Bell’s apartment and found Bell with Reed and Turner. Grover said Turner asked if she knew where Powers was. Grover testified that she told Turner that the last time she had seen Powers, she was coming up the stairs with Reed. Grover said Turner then asked her if she was ready to die, and she answered, “No.” After Turner and Reed left Bell’s apartment, Grover and Bell looked for the “community gun” in Bell’s closet, but could not find it.

Robert Rounds, who worked at a Shell gas station at 6659 South Wentworth Avenue, testified that at around 1 a.m. on October 2, he heard a gunshot coming from the area of Kennedy-King College, which was about 175 yards away.

Chicago police officer Theodore Roberts testified that Powers was found at about 2 a.m. in a secluded area that did not have a lot of foot traffic.

Terrell Smith, Grover’s boyfriend, testified that at around 1 p.m. on October 2, he went to Powers's apartment looking for Grover. The apartment had been ransacked. He found Williams dead on the bathroom floor, with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

DeShawn Jackson and William Turner, Turner’s nephew, testified that around 3 p.m. on October 2, they were in their backyard at 315 West Marquette Road with Reed. According to both Jackson and William Turner, Reed asked if they had heard anything about a murder near Kennedy-King College. They both replied that they had not, and Reed stated, “Well, anyway, I did it.” They testified that when Reed made that statement, he raised his shirt, revealing the handle of a .357 magnum revolver.

Officer Ron Salter, a Chicago police officer assigned to the crime laboratory, testified that he recovered a bullet from a wall in the hallway of Bell’s and Grover’s apartment building. Officer Robert Smith, who was assigned to the firearms identification section of the crime laboratory, testified that the bullet recovered by officer Salter from the hallway wall, a bullet recovered from Williams, and two bullets recovered from Powers were all .38-caliber bullets fired from the same .357-magnum revolver.

The prosecution and defense also stipulated that if officer Bob Berk, from the trace unit of the crime laboratory, had testified, he would have opined that a small piece of glass recovered from one of Turner’s shoes “had similar optical properties” to a particle of glass recovered from where Powers’s body was found. However, Berk would not have said with 100 percent certainty that the glass from Turner’s shoe came from the glass found at the crime scene.

Assistant State's Attorney Frank DiFranco testified that Reed made a post-arrest written statement that explained that Turner wanted to rob Williams because Williams did not have a gun. According to the statement, Reed went to Powers’s apartment and saw Turner rifling through a pair of Williams’s pants. When Williams asked Turner what he was doing with his pants, Turner shot him. The statement said that Turner then yelled at Powers to tell them where the money was. Turner then asked Williams where the money was, and when Williams did not answer, Turner shot him again. According to the statement, Reed then took Powers to Bell’s apartment, where Turner met them soon after. Turner again asked Powers where the money was.

In the statement, Reed said Turner wanted to kill Powers in Bell’s apartment, but Reed thought there were too many people there. According to the statement, Turner said he would take Powers over to Kennedy-King College and kill her there. Reed said in the statement that he and Turner went back to Turner’s house, where they met Bell, and Turner told Bell that he had just killed her girlfriend.

On December 15, 1993, the jury convicted Reed of two counts of first-degree murder as well as kidnapping, home invasion, and burglary. The judge convicted Turner of Powers’s aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder, but not guilty of Williams’s first-degree murder. Both men were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Their convictions were upheld by the First District Illinois Appellate Court. In 2005, Reed filed a post-conviction petition alleging that his confession was illegally obtained through violence. He 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 Burge and officers under his command. The report listed the names of 50 alleged torture victims.

In 2009, after years of political and legal battles, Illinois established the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC) to review defendants’ claims of torture and other physical abuse by Burge and officers under his command.

On November 12, 1991, Burge was suspended, and on February 11, 1993, the Police Board of the City of Chicago separated him from his position as a Commander with the Department of Police after finding him guilty of abusing a suspect during interrogation. Years later, Burge was convicted of perjury for lying during a deposition in a civil lawsuit alleging torture. He was sentenced to four years in prison and died in 2018.

Reed filed a claim with the Commission, and in 2014, the commission found there was sufficient evidence to support Reed’s claim of physical abuse based on the medical records showing the damage to the rod in his leg. “There is no evidence that this condition existed before [Reed’s] arrest, or that this injury happened after he arrived at the jail,” the Commission declared. “Thus, the only plausible explanation for the broken rod and the loose screws is the beating” in the interrogation room.

In 2018, following a lengthy hearing in Cook County Circuit Court, Judge Thomas Gainer vacated Reed’s conviction and ordered a new trial. Judge Gainer noted that Cook County correctional officer Clarence English had testified that he saw Reed lying on the floor in the jail’s intake area shortly after Reed was brought to the jail. Reed told him he had been beaten by police, English said.

Judge Gainer retired shortly thereafter, and the case was assigned to Judge Thomas Hennelly. In 2020, following further hearings, Judge Hennelly reinstated the convictions. He ruled that Gainer’s ruling was based not on Reed’s written statement, but on an oral statement police said Reed had made, during which he denied involvement in the crime. Hennelly ruled that since the oral statement was not used against Reed, there was no violation of his rights.

Reed’s lawyers, Elliott Zinger and Larry Dreyfus, appealed. Reed’s legal team also applied to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker for clemency, citing his exemplary behavior in prison and the danger to his health from Covid-19. On April 1, 2021, Governor Pritzker commuted Reed’s sentence, and Reed was released.

On May 10, 2021, in a one-paragraph ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court vacated Hennelly’s ruling, clearing the way for a possible retrial for Reed.

Although Reed could not be sent back to prison, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office took the case back to trial. On May 15, 2024, Judge Steven Watkins, who presided over the trial without a jury, acquitted Reed.

Watkins said that there was no forensic evidence, no eyewitness evidence, and no murder weapon linking Reed to the crime. Judge Watkins also said there was “no evidence of any desire to kill either one of them. It appears all of them were friends.”

The judge said there was “no evidence [Reed] was touching [Powers], no evidence the defendant threatened her, no evidence he pulled her up the stairs or pushed her up the stairs.” Judge Watkins ruled that the statements of Turner’s nephew and his friend about Reed allegedly admitting to the crime were not credible.

Reed had spent more than 31 years in prison from the date of his conviction until the date of his release on April 2, 2021. Zinger and Dreyfus continued to seek to overturn Turner's convictions. He remained in prison serving a life sentence without parole.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/3/2024
Last Updated: 6/3/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Kidnapping, Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1990
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:False Confession, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No