Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s last day in office brought good news for the Law School’s Exoneration Project and a client whose murder conviction they had been working to overturn since 2008. On Monday, Quinn commuted the sentence of Tyrone Hood, 51, who has served 21 years in prison despite overwhelming evidence that he was wrongfully convicted of murdering a twenty-year-old sophomore at Illinois Institute of Technology in 1993.
Hood, a Chicago native, was expected to be released this week. His commutation was among the 43 clemency petitions Quinn granted as he left office.
“We thank Governor Quinn for recognizing that Tyrone Hood’s continued incarceration is an injustice,” said Tara Thompson, ’03, a staff attorney with the Exoneration Project and a partner at civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy.
Hood is represented by former Law School Lecturer Gayle Horn, a partner at Loevy & Loevy, and Karl Leonard, ’09, of Winston & Strawn. Former clinic students Roger Lee, ’08; Marianna Chapleau, ’09; Kevin Dooley, ’10; and others have worked on Hood’s case over the years.
Leonard, who began work on the case when he was a student, called the commutation "a tremendous step in the right direction" and said the next task is to clear Hood's name.
"The State's Attorney's office is considering the matter, and we believe they will join in our request to fully exonerate Tyrone," Leonard said.
Hood’s case has generated public outrage in the wake of several media stories, including a cover story in the August issue of the New Yorker, that examined the circumstances surrounding his original conviction.
Hood, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted in 1996 based on the testimony of two witnesses who have since come forward to explain that they knew nothing about the crime. Evidence suggests that their original statements were the product of police coercion, his attorneys said, and scientific experts have debunked the testimony of a third witness.
The Exoneration Project’s case has focused on a man Hood has consistently pointed to as the most likely killer. That man, who was in dire financial conditions at the time of the murder, had recently taken out a life insurance policy on the victim, a healthy, young athlete. He had also already served a prison sentence for a separate killing. Three years later, while Hood was in prison, that man again took out a life insurance policy on a person who was murdered shortly thereafter. A similar scenario played out in 2001.
Hood's attorneys are due in Cook County Court again on February 9.
"We learn every day from our clients that justice requires patience,” Horn said. “Today we took a big step toward justice when Governor Quinn gave Tyrone back his freedom."