Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago filed a motion in Peoria County Court last week requesting advanced testing on DNA which they say proves the innocence of Johnnie Lee Savory in the double-murder for which he was sentenced to life in prison, narrowly avoiding the death penalty, in 1981.
In 1977, siblings James Robinson Jr., 14, and Connie Cooper, 19, were found stabbed to death in their home. A week later, Peoria police pulled Savory out of school and interrogated him for nearly two days without a lawyer or guardian present. Police extracted a confession, and Savory, who was just 14, was convicted in 1980. The conviction was overturned when the confession was thrown out by the Illinois Appellate Court in 1980 on the grounds that it was coerced. Savory was retried, convicted and sentenced the following year.
In 2011, Governor Pat Quinn pardoned Savory and his sentence was commuted. He was released after 30 years in prison.
In the motion filed last Tuesday, Savory’s attorneys requested a new trial based on new DNA evidence— blood samples found on a light switch at the crime scene and on the body of one of the victims. Circuit Judge Stephen Kouri said he would consider it. According to the Center on Wrongful Convictions’s website, Kouri wrote: “This is an opportunity the legal system . . . has to utilize today’s technologies to make sure justice was and/or is done.”
“Only thing I’m saying is instead of the prosecutors trying to downplay the truth, they should be right there trying to help my counsel get the truth,” Savory told
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