Madison Hobley’s Case: The Man Who Got Pardoned
Madison Hobley is one out of the 14 African American men that were sentenced to death solely on their confessions: acknowledged or alleged. These confessions were obtained by a select few Chicago police officers that later was found to be engaging in systematic torture of many suspects in many criminal cases.
Four different Chicago officers stated that Hobley himself confessed to setting a fire that took the lives of his infant son, five other people, and his wife on in the morning hours of January 6, 1987, at his residence on the 1100 block of East 82nd Street.
When the fire started, Hobley, who was 26 years old at the time, was able to escape the blaze barefoot and only wearing his underwear. Throughout the years, Hobley maintained his innocence stating that these Chicago police officers were torturing him into confessing a fabricated statement.
The fire claimed the lives of the following people:
- Anita, Hobley’s wife, 21
- Philip, Hobley’s son, 15-months-old
- Robert Stephens, 40
- Anthony Bradford, 36
- Johnnie Mae Dodds, 34
- Shelone Holton, 23
Death Row 10
The Death Row 10 are prisoners who are currently sitting on Illinois’ death row who were unfairly beating and even tortured by former detectives and Jon Burge, the former Chicago Police Commander.
Burge was forced into early retirement back in 1993. Currently, Burge spends most of his free time on his boat. Burge resides in Florida. Unfortunately. Burg and his team of detectives were never formally charged with these crimes.
However, during the summer of 1998, the Death Row 10 decided it was time to form themselves into a group and rally against the death penalty. The Death Row 10 asked for the help of Campaign to End the Death Penalty to help organize themselves.
Dick Devine, the Cook County State’s Attorney would love to keep the issue of these detectives torturing people into confessions covered up. However, with the ever-growing national and even local attention from the Death Row 10, it is extremely hard to do.
The Fabricated Confession
The morning after the fire occurred James Lotito and Robert Dwyer, two Area 2 police detectives located Hobley staying at his mother’s house. Hobley’s mother’s house was just a mile away from where the fire occurred. Lotito and Dwyer stated that Hobley voluntarily went with the police detectives down to the Area 2 headquarters then went to the central police headquarters, where he supposedly confessed.
Hobley denied that he confessed to the fire, but Hobley also stated that he did not have any choice when it came to be going with Lotito and Dwyer. Hobley stated that Dwyer decided to handcuff him to the wall when they were at Area 2 and Dwyer then started beating on him. After Dwyer was done beating Hobley, they took him to the central police headquarters downtown, where he has then handcuffed again, and kicked repeatedly by none other than Sergeant Patrick Garrity.
According to Hobley, Detective Daniel McWeeny, Lotito, and Dwyer suffocated him with a typewriter cover until he finally blacked out.
The Detectives Testimony
In 1990, during Hobley’s trial in front of the Cook County Circuit Court Judge, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of the four officers, which all consistently denied abusing Hobley. The prosecution claimed that Hobley was told two times that he has the right to remain silent and that he could consult a lawyer if he chooses, but they stated that Hobley decided to waive his rights and confess.
According to the police officers, Hobley stated that he went down to the filling station with a can, where he bought one dollar of gasoline and proceeded to go home. Hobley then stated that he emptied the gas can in the hallway on the third floor and down the stairwell. This is where he ignited the gasoline with a match. He supposedly did this to flee his old life and start a new life with a woman he was having an affair with.
However, there has been no record of this coerced confession. Dwyer stated that he took notes when Hobley was confessing, but he threw them away because he spilled something on them.
The Supposed Gasoline Purchase
The Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney’s Paul Tsukuno and George Velcich put two key witnesses on the witness stand that backed up Hobley purchasing a dollar’s worth of fuel in a gas can at the Amoco gas station on the 8300 blocks of South Cottage and Grove Avenue just an hour before the fire occurred.
The first witness was Andre Council. Council was a customer at the Amoco gas station that night. Council stated that he was within five feet from the guy who was pumping the gasoline in the gas can. After he saw the guy who pumped the gas, Council stated that he was with Kenneth Stewart, the attendant at the gas station for an additional 30 to 45 minutes when they started seeing fire trucks passing by.
Then a little later Council stated he went to the scene of the crime, which was only under a mile away from the gas station, where he saw the man pumping the gas. It was not until the next day when Council saw a photo of Hobley on the television. Council recognized Hobley and he called the local police.
Andre Council, a customer at the station, testified that he stood five feet from the man as he pumped the gasoline. After the man paid for the gasoline and left, Council said he visited with the attendant, Kenneth Stewart, for 30 to 45 minutes before fire trucks went roaring past.
Kenneth Stewart was the second witness brought to the stand. Stewart stated that he dealt with a man who bought a dollar’s worth of gas, while Andre Council was also at the station. Stewart, however, failed to identify Hobley in a lineup the day after the fire happened.
Alleged Physical Corroboration
To go with Hobley’s alleged confession along with the other aspects of the prosecution case, Tsukuno and Velcich presented two-gallon gasoline can to the court along with the testimony from John Paladino, Chicago Police Detective who stated he found this at the crime scene.
Virgil Mikus, a Chicago police detective stated that as an arson expert that the burn pattern to the ground in front of Hobley’s home presented that gasoline was indeed poured there. Mikus also stated that tests presented that there were no other traces of gasoline in that general area, but it could have been washed away from the water from the fire department when they were trying to extinguish the fire.
Conviction and Appeals
Overall, the jury could find nothing enough to prevent them from not imposing the death penalty. Ultimately, the jury did convict Hobley and sentenced him to death in 1994.
Petition for Executive Clemency
Feuer and Lyon appealed and even filed a petition where they were looking for a full pardon based on within the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board conducts these types of hearings based on requests and they will make confidential recommendations to the state’s governor.
Then on October 18, 2002, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board heard the Hobley’s petition. It was not until January 9, 2003, when George H. Ryan, the Illinois Governor granted Pardon for Hobley.
Ryan stated that Hobley was convicted on the sole basis of unreliable evidence. That Hobley’s case did not give the jury the benefit of the doubt with the evidence they had presented.