Innocent and on Death Row

An Interview with Aaron Patterson

By: The following interview was conducted through the mail by Noreen McNulty

Aaron Patterson has been on death row for almost 12 years. He was a victim of police torture. During a 25-hour interrogation, officers pulled a plastic hood over his head several times, threatening to suffocate him. One officer threatened him with a gun. Despite this, Aaron never signed a confession. No physical evidence links him to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

What are conditions like for you on death row?

I am in a 6x9 cell with a steel door. It has a chuckhole on the door,
which stays locked until I am fed/use attorney phone/mail/etc. It is there
to make sure I don't get contraband or assault guards or inmates. I am not
allowed canned goods or regular phone calls unless there is a death in my family.

I am only allowed one shower/yard visit a week, on Sundays only, from
7:30 am-12:30 PM. I must visit behind a plexiglas window, chained to a chair
and handcuffed! For a 2 hour visit. I must strip down naked, bend over and
spread my butt open for guards to look in if I want to receive a visit. This
procedure is done going and coming off of the visit. I have not gone on a
visit since they started this new procedure because I refuse to subject myself
to this search! I have filed a civil lawsuit against all of these issues but
it was dismissed without prejudice because I did not exhaust my administrative
remedies (grievances). I will re-file once I receive final decision on my
grievances. I protested for 8 months by not going to the yard, showers and visits.

What is your view of the death penalty and the criminal justice system?

I was political on the streets, in a radical sense. That is why I was framed
for this case. I did not respect the law because of the hypocrites who made
the laws and enforced them. I had several conflicts with the police while I
was out there. I became more politically conscious after I became a victim of
this abusive and racist legal system. I am growing more aware of politics
everyday by just observing things around me and what I see in society.

How do you protest your own imprisonment on Death Row?

There are two sets of rules for different types of prisoners here. If you
are a model prisoner who doesn't demand change or organize protests against
the abuses being done here, you will not be treated as badly as a prisoner who
is outspoken and rebellious about the abuses of authority here. As a matter of
fact, the guards try to make examples out of the radical prisoners who refuse
to abide by prison rules and guidelines. They want the model prisoners to stay
passive and convince other prisoners to be submissive and keep things peaceful
and quiet until it is time for them to execute an inmate.

When the guards are abusing and beating an inmate here, they want the rest
of the inmates to mind their own business and not say/interfere/or protest their
action towards that particular inmate.

I don't believe I belong here, so I don't fake how I feel about being
locked up like a dog and treated like a slave. Since I am innocent, I feel I
don't have to be subjected to these rules. So I will continue to be vocal and
rebellious about being here.

Where is your case at?

The prosecutors and police refuse to turn over fingerprint/footprint
evidence to my lawyers to be tested. We sent subpoenas/letters/Freedom of
Information Act forms to police and prosecutors, but they refuse to give
it up. The fingerprint was found on a radio hid in a garbage can on the back
porch of the victim's house. It was tested and did not match the victims/my
prints/or any one associated with me! We want to do automated computer testing
on the print to find out who it belongs to. It could lead us to the actual
killer. The same goes for bloody footprints found on the kitchen floor and
back porch. There were (3) different footprints found there. None of these
prints matched mine. From that we know there had to be at least 3 offenders
involved in this case. How could I have stabbed the victims during a struggle
and not step in blood unless I floated across the house like superman! I believe
the prosecutors and police know who the prints belong to but do not want to
correct a wrong because of the repercussion that would follow. My lawyers feel
getting the prints isn't that important since they don't match my prints. I
disagree. I believe it will lead to the actual killer(s)! For the sake of p/r I
want that issue publicized every chance we get.

What should people do to help you and to protest the death penalty in general?

My next appeal is in front of the Illinois supreme court later this year. We
are also planning a clemency hearing to make public the injustice done to me.

I need supporters to contact me here and I will give them instructions on
exactly how they can help. There are a variety of things supporters can do.
Every little bit helps my cause as well as abolishing this death penalty.

Letters for Aaron can be sent to:

Aaron Patterson
#B00567, Pontiac Condemned Unit, Box 999
Pontiac, IL 61764

If you are interested in organizing around Aaron's case, you can also contact the Campaign to End the Death Penalty at 312-409-7145.