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21 Pub. Int. L. Rep. 193 (2015-2016)
The Death Row Ten: Interrupting Illinois' Death Machine

handle is hein.journals/pilr21 and id is 207 raw text is: 



No. 3 * Symposium 2015


The Death Row Ten: Interrupting Illinois' Death Machine

                                  Alice Kim*

     In the long run, the people are our only appeal.
     The only ones who can free us are ourselves. Assata Shakur

     In 1998, a group  of African American   men  on  Illinois' death row organ-
ized a powerful  campaign   from  their prison cells to save their lives.' Calling
themselves  the Death  Row  Ten,  these men  and  their mothers  linked up with
activists to demand justice in their cases and an end to the barbaric practice of
capital punishment.2   Over  a span of nearly twenty  years, each of the Death
Row   Ten had  been tortured by former  Chicago  Police Commander Jon Burge
or other white  officers under his command,   making  them  among   at least 117
documented cases   of torture at Area Two  and  Area Three  police headquarters
on  the South  Side of Chicago  between   1972 to  199 .3 The  Death  Row   Ten
defied a corrupt legal and political system that not only relied on forced con-
fessions to sentence them   to death but  also covered up  police torture at the
expense  of their lives. Their struggle profoundly   interrupted Illinois' death
machine.
    In  the late 1990s, several forces coalesced in Illinois: tenacious litigation,
veracious investigative journalism, and  a new  growing  wave  of social protest
against police violence and the death penalty. The convergence   of these factors
forced a spotlight on wrongful  convictions and racial bias in the criminal legal
system, and  Illinois became ground zero for the movement   against capital pun-
ishment  in the United States. The Death  Row  Ten's organizing efforts played a
critical role in catalyzing and shaping  this burgeoning  movement, yet their

*  Alice Kim is a co-founder of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials. She is the Editor of Praxis
Center, an online social justice resource center hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice
Leadership. She is a longtime death penalty and prison abolitionist and worked with death row
prisoners and their family members to abolish capital punishment in Illinois. She teaches at
Stateville Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for men, through the Prison +
Neighborhood Arts Project. She is a Soros Justice Fellow and is co-authoring a book about the
struggles for justice in the Burge torture cases with Joey Mogul.
    I See generally Joan Parkin & Alice Kim, Meet The Death Row Ten - A victory for the Death
Row  Ten: The Struggle Continues, THE NEW ABOLITIONIST (May 2003), http://www.nodeath
penalty.org/new-abolitionist/may-2003-issue-28/meet-death-row-10 [hereinafter Kim].
   2 Id.
   3 Frederick H. Lowe, Chicago Pays Up: $5.5 million Reparations for Wrongly Convicted Black
Men, NEW  AMERICAN  MEDIA, Feb. 3, 2016, http://newamericamedia.org/trending/2016/02/
chicago-pays-up-55-million-reparations-for-wrongly-convicted-black-men-I.php  [hereinafter
Lowe].


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