Black Police Officer Howard Morgan Was Shot 28 Times By Four White Police Officers. Yet, Somehow He’s Guilty.
by Megan Hamilton
In the seemingly never-ending harassment, intimidation, and outright murder of African-Americans by those who are supposedly sworn to “Serve and to protect” one case, largely ignored by the media, stands out.
Meet Howard Morgan.
He was a Chicago police officer for more than eight years, and was also a detective for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for more than 13 years. In his time as a Chicago police officer, he earned 13 commendations, according to FreeHowardMorgan.com.
None of that, however, was enough to protect him from being shot 28 times from members of his own former department. Then, to rub further salt in those wounds, he was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to jail for 40 years.
To say the evidence in this case is lacking, is perhaps the understatement of the decade.
It all went down like this, depending upon whom you believe:
On his way home, Morgan was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. Then, after identifying himself as a police officer, he was forced from his vehicle and shot 21 times in the back and seven times in the front by four white police officers.
Three of four officers involved were also shot, but none had life-threatening wounds, The Chicago Sun-Times reported in a 2012 article.
According to police, Morgan became uncooperative while they were trying to handcuff him. They say he grabbed an unregistered Glock 9mm handgun and fired 17 rounds at them.
Morgan told the court that he was “snatched” from his van and searched by the officers. Then, he said, he heard “gun! Gun!” just before being shot by the fusillade of bullets and left unconscious. He told the court he didn’t fire a single shot. For their part, the officers told the court that they pulled Morgan over because he was heading the wrong way down a one-way street with his headlights off. Morgan, they said, exited his van in an “agitated” state, and when they came upon his gun, he shot first and they responded in self-defense, The Huffington Post reports.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office believed the four police officers, and Morgan was charged with four counts of attempted murder and firearms offenses.
His wife, Rosalind Morgan knows her husband better.
“Four white officers and one black Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad police man with his weapon on him—around the corner from our home—and he just decided to go crazy? No. That’s ludicrous,” Morgan’s wife, Rosalind Morgan, told the Sun-Times, the Huffington Post reports.
The first time Morgan was put on trial, the jury acquitted him in 2007 of aggravated battery and discharging his weapon, but was deadlocked on four attempted murder charges. That, the Post reports, lead to a retrial, and on April 5, 2012, Judge Clayton Crane sentenced Morgan, 61, to 40 years.
In this instance, the jury was not allowed to hear that Morgan was acquitted of the other charges.
In 2009, a three-judge appellate panel reviewed the evidence and made some interesting findings.
Let’s just say that if this case were a bridge, you couldn’t walk on it. There are Grand Canyon sized holes in it, based on the judges’ discoveries.
What were some of the holes, you ask?
Let’s start with the Huffington Post:
- Before it could be tested for finger prints, bullets, and other evidence from the confrontation, police crushed the van that Morgan had been driving.
- No fingerprints were found on Morgan’s gun.
- The bullets that struck two of the officers weren’t recovered. The officers testified that they didn’t see Morgan fire the bullets and admitted that they were in each other’s line of fire, which means that a jury could reasonably conclude that the officers may well have been hit by “friendly fire.”
The case of the “Now you don’t see it, now you do” bullet
This particular bullet, which became a major focal point in the case against Morgan, seems to have magic powers. Discovered at the hospital when it “fell” from the protective vest of another officer who was at the scene, the officer later claimed that he saw Morgan fire the bullet. It must have lodged in the vest, the officer said, per The Huffington Post. A ballistics expert testified that the bullet wasn’t shot by any of the officers’ guns, which means friendly fire wasn’t its source.
So where did this bullet come from? The ballistics expert wasn’t able to match it to Morgan’s gun, the appellate review found. Yet somehow, with all of the jostling during the shooting, it wasn’t dislodged when the officer claimed he ran for cover. It also didn’t fall from the vest when the officer probed to determine how bad his injuries were. It even remained intact during the ride to the hospital.
In fact, the bullet didn’t materialize until three witnesses saw it when the officer undressed at the hospital.
The vest in question?
Police failed to inventory it and prosecutors weren’t able to produce it at the trial. Morgan’s lawyers didn’t fail to point this out, the Post reports.
Now, for the rest of the holes
Courtesy of The Grio:
- Charice Rush is the only eyewitness who came forward. She testified at Morgan’s 2007 trial that she saw the officers “snatch” Morgan from his van and “force him onto one knee.” She said she also heard one officer say “oh shit, he has a gun.” Then, she said, they opened fire while Morgan was on the ground.
She said she never saw Morgan fire a gun.
- Police evidence technicians took photos of Morgan’s van, and every single photo showed the van was parked with its lights on.
Two Chicago police officers—Richard Pruger and Tom Mitchell–arrived on scene after the shootings. Both testified that the van’s headlights were on. So did Chicago police forensic investigator Maurice Henderson.
- Morgan was never tested for gun residue to confirm if he fired a gun.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Rosalind Morgan told The Grio that Morgan’s van was riddled with bullets. The walls of nearby houses and furniture within were absolutely riddled with bullets. Because the van was destroyed, the jury never got the chance to see the evidence.
“While he’s in the hospital fighting for his life, they destroyed the van that was riddled with bullets,” Crump said. “They ordered it demolished. Chicago police destroyed evidence.”
“Sixty years old, no criminal history, and the judge sentenced him to 40 years,” Crump said. “The [officers]claimed he shot at them. No evidence was ever produced that he fired a shot. One officer claimed a month later that there was a bullet in his vest, but when they came to court, [they produced]no vest, just a replica.”
Illinois Cook County Public Defender has filed an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court. This case, he told NewsOne, represents the height of racial bias.
Finkle said the appeal will argue on the grounds of double jeopardy—this prohibits a defendant from being tried on the same charges after a legitimate acquittal. He also plans to contend that allegations regarding misconduct by the white police officers should have been allowed in court. Defense lawyers during the second trial were blocked from asking potential jurors regarding their feelings as to whether or not some Chicago police officers have a bias against blacks.
Crump told News One that the case raises questions as to whether the media and the justice system value black lives;
“I just don’t think the white media cares about black life and there has never been a more telling example of that than this Howard Morgan case, because when you really think about it, what more can you do? he said. “You’re a police officer, you don’t commit any crimes, and you’re honorable. What more could he have done? Where is the outrage? Where is the nonstop media coverage?”
Perhaps Rosalind Morgan said it best:
“Trayvon Martin cannot speak from the grave,” she told NewsOne. “I believe his spirit cries out and I believe his spirit has transcended itself through Howard Morgan. If you are in the grave, you cannot speak and say exactly what happened. Mr. Morgan is alive, and he can tell you exactly what happened to him that night. If they take the word and the story of the four Caucasian officers who tried to assassinate him over that of a seasoned African-American police officer with no prior criminal record, what does it say about our justice system? And people, do you really care about another human’s life? This is a human being and he deserves to live again.”
“Why do they want to kill Mr. Morgan? Why not let him live?”
A Change.org petition calling on Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and Chicago Congressman Danny Davis to free Morgan has garnered nearly 41,000 signatures.