Ronald Kitchen in 2009. (Photo: Jennifer Linzer)
Burge victim Ronald Kitchen Latest Illinois Death Row Exoneree
On Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 43-year-old Ronald Kitchen, who confessed under extreme physical duress to taking part in five murders 21 years ago, was exonerated and freed from prison. The confession was extracted by Detective Michael Kill, who worked under Commander Jon Burge. Kitchen spent 13 of his 21 years behind bars on death row.
He was freed by Judge Paul Biebel, the presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Cook County Circuit Court, after the Office of the Illinois Attorney General joined with attorneys from the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law and the law firm of Baker & McKenzie to request dismissal of the charges.
Biebel also freed Kitchen’s equally innocent co-defendant, Marvin Reeves, 50, who was represented by attorneys from Mayer Brown LLP.
Kitchen’s conviction rested primarily on his confession, but also involved a jailhouse snitch, Willie Williams, who has admitted that he lied when he testified that both Kitchen and Reeves had confessed the crime to him. The tortured confession implicated Reeves in the murders, although he had nothing to do with them. Both convictions rested in part on the failure of Cook County prosecutors to provide defense attorneys with evidence of benefits provided to Willie Williams in return for his testimony.
Of 314 men and women sentenced to death under the current Illinois death penalty law, which was enacted in 1977, 20 have now been exonerated and released — an error rate of more than six percent.
Kitchen was represented by Thomas F. Geraghty and Carolyn E. Frazier of the Bluhm Legal Clinic and Mark Oates and Angela Vigil of Baker & McKenzie. Reeves was represented by Michael J. Gill and David D. Pope of Mayer Brown.