Former IL. Gov. George Ryan's Conviction Upheld

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan lost his appeal to overturn his conviction on corruption charges yesterday. He will remain free pending a request for an "en banc" rehearing by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The main issue in the appeal involves the propriety of the Judge substituting two alternate jurors 8 days after deliberations began and a juror's bringing outside material into the jury room.

Yes, a juror did bring improper outside information into deliberations at Ryan's trial and "there is no doubt this should not have happened," the two-judge majority wrote. The judges also acknowledged that the sudden removal of an outspoken juror after eight days of deliberations was irregular.

"The trial may not have been picture-perfect," the two judges wrote in the majority opinion.

One judge dissented from the majority's view:


Dissenting Judge Michael Kanne called that "a whopping understatement by any measure." The jury deliberations were "dysfunctional" and U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer was "irresolute," he wrote, concluding that Ryan and Warner did not get a fair trial.

Gov. Ryan is best known for his decision to grant clemency to all death row inmates in Illinois following a long study of the state's broken death penalty system.

One of the ousted jurors told the Sun-Times yesterday:

[J]uror Evelyn Ezell, whose ouster from deliberations was a focal point of Ryan's appeal, called the ruling unfair. "The bottom line was that George was railroaded for pardoning blacks and other minorities," she said, referring to Ryan's historic decision to clear Illinois' Death Row. "There is no way that you can say that jury was not flawed."

I think this Northwestern law professor hits the nail on the head:

Northwestern University law Professor Al Alschuler said [dissenting judge] Kanne was right. "At the end of his opinion Kanne said, 'I have no doubt that had this case been a six-day trial, rather than a six-month trial, a mistrial would have been swiftly declared,'" Alschuler said. "I think it's a shame that judges allow these long kitchen-sink trials and then find themselves in a position where it's almost unthinkable to incur the costs of starting over."

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  • Display: Sort:
    Ryan is not after a fair trial; (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by fiver5 on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 01:07:52 PM EST
    He is playing for time.  The biggest gift District Court Judge Pallmeyer could have given him (and did) was a lengthy, tenable appeal.  Following this appeal (and cert. application, and retrial, and re-appeal), we can expect a series of health problems.  He's a powerful old crook (who recklessly caused the incineration deaths of six children) who will probably never see the inside of a prison.

    Conflating his commutations with any sort of "railroading" in this case is an argument which only works on the severely under-informed.  George Ryan was a dirty, right wing politician who headed an Illinois Republican Party whose entire leadership left, or was removed, under a cloud of indictments and scandal.  His decision to issue the death row commutations was not made until well after it was clear that his corruption had been exposed.  He was a "law and order" guy until then.

    That sums it up nicely (none / 0) (#5)
    by Downtowner on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 01:39:42 PM EST
    What amazes me is how truly reviled Ryan is here in IL, and how that one (completely out of character with the entire rest of his career) act seems to have shifted opinion about him everywhere else but in Illinois itself.

    Will just add one political note:  everyone tends to think of IL as a blue state, but if it is now, we have Ryan's corruption to thank for it.

    At the time he was exposed, leaving office, under investigation, and made this decision, the GOP had held the statehouse for thirty years.  One of our Senators was Durbin, the other Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican but an honest one, who was drummed out of the party for defying Rove and getting Patrick Fitzgerald brought in, among other things, to prosecute Ryan.  In pretty much of a seamless sequence with this chain of events, Jack Ryan (no relation, but unfortunately named) was the GOP nominee facing off with Obama.  He was forced to resign when his own personal scandal piggy-backed almost instantly onto George Ryan's.

    Balancing Blue, Blue Chicago, against Red, Red rural areas, Illinois is still a purple state - but the fallout from George Ryan has revolted so many Illinois Republicans that it's hard to tell.

    George Ryan started a Dem wave in Illinois before waves were popular.


    Ryan (none / 0) (#1)
    by bronco214 on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 11:47:03 AM EST
    According to the dismissed juror, Ryan was "railroaded" because he gave blacks/minorities clemency. BS, he was convicted because he's a crook. He was involved in an illegal bribes-for-licenses scam that caused the deaths of 6 children when their van was hit by an unskilled truck driver. The license scam was pure greed and Ryan should rightfully spend the rest of his days behind bars.

    the issue (none / 0) (#2)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 11:55:23 AM EST
    is not the sufficiency of the evidence but whether he was denied a fair trial by the trial court's actions in removing jurors during the deliberations and allowing them to begin anew with alternates and ignoring the possibility the deliberations were tainted by consideration of improper information.

      He may well be a crook but he still deserves a fair trial.

      (Although I will say I think it is absurd to argue as has been done in the past  that he should get a pass for being a crook because he commuted the death sentences. One of the fundamentals of justice is that we should strive for having all held equal before the law. Favoring those who have done other things we consider good is as bad as disfavoring those who have done other things we consider bad.)


    Here in Illinois (none / 0) (#3)
    by Downtowner on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 11:56:27 AM EST
    "Gov. Ryan is best known for his decision to grant clemency to all death row inmates in Illinois following a long study of the state's broken death penalty system"

    but mostly, we cynically suspect, not becuse of the results of that study, but rather because it had become fairly clear he could expect to be spending some amount of time behind bars himself, in light of the "license for bribes" scandal that resulted in the deaths of six children on an Illinois tollway.

    Here in Illinois, we just regret they couldn't find a way to charge him with those actual murders.

    What are the odds (none / 0) (#6)
    by phedeen on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 05:56:10 PM EST
    that Ryan gets pardoned by W on the way out the door in December '08 and he never serves a day?

    Not Great (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Wed Aug 22, 2007 at 06:01:23 PM EST
    He is against the death penalty and commuted death row sentences. A big no no if you want to gain favor with W.