Friday, January 18, 2008

Paroled inmate: DNA will clear me

30 YEARS 'Once and for all, people will know the truth'

January 18, 2008

BY ERIC HERMAN Chicago Sun-Times

Johnnie Savory got out of prison more than a year ago -- but he still wants to prove his innocence.

Savory, 45, was convicted of a double murder in 1977, when he was 14. Since then, he has maintained he did not commit the Peoria murders.

Now, he has been paroled, and more than 200 high-profile supporters -- including former federal prosecutors and author John Grisham --are asking Gov. Blagojevich to order DNA testing in the case to exonerate Savory and completely clear his name.

"Grant me DNA testing, and then once and for all people will know the truth," Savory said at a press conference at Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions, which took up his case.

Two all-white juries convicted Savory, an African American, of stabbing teenagers James Robinson and Connie Cooper to death on Jan. 18, 1977. Two of the three informants who testified against Savory recanted their stories, according to the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Savory, after being arrested at his junior high school and interrogated for a day and a half, allegedly confessed to the crime. He later recanted his confession. Prosecutors claimed he lost his temper while practicing karate with Robinson, then killed Cooper.

In a letter to Blagojevich, former U.S. Attorney Tom Sullivan urged the governor to order the DNA testing of fingernail scrapings and hairs recovered from the victims' hands. He said testing could identify Peter Douglas, the victims' stepfather, as the actual killer. Douglas is now deceased.

Douglas was a "prime suspect" and "more closely fit the description of the killer provided by a witness," Sullivan said.

Sullivan was joined in the request by four other former U.S. attorneys from Chicago -- Sam Skinner, Dan Webb, Anton Valukas, and Scott Lassar -- as well as Grisham and Studs Terkel. Blagojevich's spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

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