He has tried for 60 years to clear his name after a rape conviction, but Wednesday, a federal jury rejected his claims of police coercion, instead clearing now-deceased police officers.
The court filings of Oscar Walden Jr.’s case shone a light on former Gov. George Ryan, who gave a deposition to lawyers representing the city of Chicago from his Terre Haute, Ind. federal prison, answering questions about why he gave Walden an innocence pardon and about Ryan’s notorious 2003 clemency decisions.
Walden, 79, brought claims to federal court nearly 60 years later and sought $15 million in damages from the City of Chicago.
Jurors paid him not a dime he sought to collect after he accused police officers of coercing a confession from him. Jurors after court said there was a lack of physical evidence. Walden said he was tortured into confessing in 1952. He said officers bent his fingers back, whipped him and threatened to hang him. He was released from prison in 1965 and but said he had wanted to clear his name. He couldn’t bring the lawsuit until he won a pardon of innocence, which Ryan gave him in late 2002.
Representing the city, Avi T. Kamionski and Andrew M. Hale, were blocked from calling Ryan as a witness at trial to explain why he pardoned Walden on the basis of innocence. They won an interview with Ryan in March 2010, who acknowledged spending as little as 10 minutes reviewing facts of particular petitions for clemency.
“There wasn’t any reason to spend a lot of time,” on Walden’s case, Ryan said in the deposition.
“The case should never have gone to court. It should have been tossed out. Ryan’s the reason it’s even here,” Kamionski said Wednesday. “If Ryan didn’t pardon this guy, he’d have no claim. Why did Ryan do it? He still didn’t answer the question.”
Ryan gave an interview from where he’s serving a 6 ½ year corruption sentence in Terre Haute, Ind. “I mean, I pardoned guys that I knew were guilty or at least thought they were, but I didn’t want any innocent people killed,” Ryan said in his deposition.“But I don’t have to tell you why I did it, what I thought about it any more than I have to tell you why I thought why he should have it or shouldn’t have it. I just used my judgment like I did on a lot of things I did in the time I spent in government. That’s called leadership.”
Kamionski and Hale said that the pardon came after a judge, George Leighton, sent Ryan a letter asking for Walden’s pardon.
“I think it was a real tragedy,” said his lawyer, Flint Taylor. “He’s an innocent man who fought for 60 years to establish his innocence.”
An angry Walden sat down in a courtroom hallway and shook his head Wednesday.
“I’m an innocent man,” he said. “I’ll say it until the day I die.”