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After suffering 28 bullet wounds from cops, Howard Morgan sentenced to 40 years

By Cinque Muhammad | Last updated: Apr 18, 2012 - 5:03:04 PM

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Former Chicago police officer Howard Morgan was hospitalized six months and underwent several surgeries for injuries he sustained after four white officers shot him 28 times in 2005.
CHICAGO ( - The atmosphere was tense on the morning of April 5 as a courtroom full of supporters awaited the sentencing of Howard Morgan, a senior patrolman for the Burlington Northern Railroad who in January was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm in a confrontation with police officers seven years ago.

A vigilant group of people of various ages, religious faiths and nationalities gathered at the Cook County Criminal Court seeking justice for a man they believe was wrongly convicted.

“It’s very hurtful and it has harmed my family tremendously,” said Mrs. Rosalind Morgan, speaking of her husband’s plight and injuries. He suffered nearly 30 gunshot wounds inflicted by police who insist he started a gun battle during a routine traffic stop.

“We will be shedding tears for some time, until my husband is permanently set free,” she added.

Rosalind and Horward Morgan
In a moment of solidarity, well-wishers, friends and the Morgan family came to their feet as he entered the courtroom. Many remained standing for the duration of the hearing. Attorneys for Mr. Morgan, Herschella Conyers and Randolph N. Stone, both professors at the University Of Chicago Law School, initially motioned for a retrial citing errors in evidence and jury selection in the trial that led to their client’s conviction. A visibly calm Mr. Morgan waited patiently while the prosecution rehashed the trial in an attempt to prove that the conviction should be upheld.

Prosecutors accused the defendant of playing the “race card,” calling Mr. Morgan, 61, a “sociopath” and a “danger to society.” Atty. Stone disagreed, stating his client was a “peaceful, law abiding” man with no prior convictions. “The court should consider his whole life,” he said. When allowed to speak, Mr. Morgan stood and declared, “I am in God’s hands. I ask God to bless my wife and family.”

After one and a half hours of arguments, Judge Clayton Crane denied a retrial and gave Mr. Morgan four sentences: One for 40 years, another for 35 and two others for 25 years. He’s expected to serve the sentences concurrently, which would equal up to 40 years of actual prison time.

Final sentencing, however, has been continued until May 2 as the defense will file for an appeal and motion to reduce the number of years to be served. “We have alleged numerous errors in the trial, and that’s what we will focus on in the appeal,” said Atty. Conyers. She also commented on the remarkable strength of her client’s faith throughout the ongoing legal battles. “His spirit is awe-inspiring! Mr. Morgan keeps my spirits up,” she said.

Police said on February 21, 2005, Mr. Morgan, who is Black and a former Chicago police officer, struggled with and fired his weapon at four White officers after being pulled over for a traffic violation around midnight. Mr. Morgan said the officers were the aggressors.

According to Mrs. Morgan, “They snatched him out of the car and pushed him down to the ground on one knee. There were two officers, and then he suddenly felt more hands on him pushing down on his shoulders and putting his hands behind his back. They surrounded him in a circle.

“He’s still telling them, ‘I’m a police officer, what’s going on here?’ During the pat down, one of the officers found his weapon on him, and yelled, ‘Gun, gun!’ Then Officer Eric White punched him in the head, and while the other officers were holding him, then shot him directly in the back. These are words directly from Eric White himself on the witness stand. They shot him 21 times in the back and seven times in the front. Mr. Morgan said he did not fire his weapon. They shot him and shattered the bones in his right arm and hand. That’s his firing hand. So how could you pull the trigger, and the bones are shattered in your hand? He was unconscious after that. Then an officer handcuffed him, and he was out there handcuffed, lying on the street after he had been shot. How evil can you be? There was also a large laceration on his leg. I don’t know who cut him, but when he got to the hospital, they saw that there was a laceration down to bone on his leg. They burst his eardrum. He had to have reconstructive surgery on his ear.”

The altercation ended with two officers sustaining minor injuries, while Mr. Morgan suffered 28 bullet wounds from shots fired by the officers. None of the officers were charged with any wrongdoing.

Mr. Morgan was acquitted of multiple aggravated battery charges against the officers in 2007, but was retried and convicted this year, causing many critics to charge the justice system made a grave mistake. They argue it was unconstitutional to retry a man twice for the same crime. “It’s a case of double jeopardy, and they have made the criminals look as if they are the victims,” said Fred Hampton Jr., chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee.

Sherrilynn Bevel, who teaches political science and human rights at the University of Chicago, attended the sentencing. “It was troubling to witness a decorated police officer receiving a 40-year sentence in a case where one jury found that he fired no weapon, and a second jury, not knowing of this verdict, goes on to find him guilty of attempted murder,” she said. “In the wake of the Jon Burge police torture cases, there is little wonder why African Americans and other minorities have little confidence in the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to holding the police accountable.”

“This Howard Morgan movement has to continue,” said Kareem Ali, a member of the Nation of Islam who has assisted the family in raising awareness about the case. “He is the one that God has empowered to be the representative to speak for the countless brothers and sisters who have lost their lives to police brutality,” he added.

Mrs. Morgan echoed these sentiments. “For Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and all the lives that have been lost to police shootings, let’s give Mr. Morgan justice so that their lives would have not been lost in vain,” she said.

Related news:

Sentencing delayed for ex-cop shot 28 times (FCN, 03-07-2012)

Black ex-cop shot 28 times by White cops is found guilty, fights for justice (FCN, 02-09-2012)

Trial of officer shot 28 times, reopens wounds (01-30-2012)

Mistrial declared for former cop shot 28 times by police (FCN, 06-01-2007)