Crusader Staff Report
The attorney for Roosevelt Myles on Friday, April 3, submitted a letter to Governor J.B. Pritzker, asking him to grant clemency to the Chicago man who has been in prison for 28 years for a murder he didn’t commit.
As Myles struggles with underlying health conditions, his attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, is concerned that his life is at serious risk as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to spread through the state’s prison system. As numerous red-tape delays force Myles’ post-conviction appeal to drag on, Myles continues to struggle from diabetes, and high blood pressure. Bonjean believes time is running out to save the life of an innocent man.
“We write during these unprecedented times to implore upon you to commute the sentence of Roosevelt Myles, a wrongly-convicted, 55-year-old prisoner at Illinois River Correctional Facility, who is months away from release and faces a particular high risk of dying or suffering severe health effects if he contracts COVID-19.”
Myles has been waiting an unprecedented 20 years for a hearing that he was granted by an appeals court in 2000.
He was sent to prison in 1996 for 60 years, based on the testimony of a 16-year-old female who later recanted and said disgraced Chicago police officer Anthony Wojcik visited her house six times, pressuring her to falsely confess that Myles killed a 16-year-old teenager on the West Side in 1992.
No DNA evidence was found to link Myles to the murder. An alibi said he saw Myles at another location when the murder was committed. Myles’ parents have died while he was in prison.
The Crusader has written extensively on Myles’ case and the red-tape that impacted his appeals for freedom.
After he was placed behind bars, a string of public defenders racked up over 70 delays in getting Myles a hearing that he never received.
In 2019, after three delayed rulings, Judge Dennis Porter sided with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and denied Myles the hearing, saying Myles’ appeal had no merit.
Bonjean then filed an emergency appeal, saying her client had “compelling” evidence that would prove Myles’ innocence.
After missing the deadline to respond, the Cook County State’s Attorney Office last November, requested and received 180 days to file its response.
The state is currently reviewing Myles’ latest appeal, but the outcome may be further delayed because the coronavirus pandemic has suspended court proceedings.
While incarcerated, Myles has earned numerous certifications for trades that would earn him early release under Illinois’ good time amended law. Under that law, Myles would be released January 7, 2022, according to the Illinois Department of Correction’s (IDOC) website.
Bonjean said Myles has earned nine months of good time through the Earned Program Credit. Bonjean said Myles is awaiting approval from IDOC for six additional months of good time.
The Discovery cable network will air Myles’ story May 5 as part of its series, “Reasonable Doubt.”
Under the amended good time Illinois law, Myles’ attorney said her client could be released as early as next month, but the coronavirus pandemic has added a new delay to Myles’ efforts to obtain his freedom as court proceedings have come to a halt because of the virus.
With his health condition and the coronavirus pandemic threatening to spread within the prison system, Bonjean said Myles’ appeal for freedom is urgent.
“Wheher Mr. Myles is released next month or in several months, the remainder of his sentence should be commuted in light of his enhanced risk of COVID-19 complications should he become infected,” Bonjean said in her letter to Pritzker.
“Additionally, Mr. Myles has exceptionally compelling claims of actual innocence that are currently pending in the Illinois Appellate Court. But we are concerned that his life is at risk and he may not get the opportunity to see the justice he deserves.”
There are 64 confirmed cases at Stateville Correctional Center and 167 confirmed cases at Cook County Jail.