In the News
December 19, 2012
Peoria Journal Star
Hearing for Savory DNA case scheduled
By: Andy Kravetz
PEORIA — Johnnie Lee Savory could know within two months whether he will have a chance to prove he didn't commit the two murders he was convicted of nearly 30 years ago.
At a brief hearing Wednesday in Peoria County Circuit Court, Judge Steve Kouri set a Feb. 11 hearing where he will hear arguments whether he should allow DNA testing on several key pieces of evidence from the 1977 slayings.
Savory was at the hearing but said little during it.
Afterward, he said his only goal was to see the truth come out, that he didn't kill Connie Cooper, 19, and her brother, James Robinson, 14, in June 1977 at their Peoria home. Prosecutors had said Savory, then 14, lost his temper while practicing karate with Robinson, killed him and then killed Cooper.
Savory was tried twice. His first conviction was overturned by the Third District Illinois Appellate Court, which determined suspect Savory's alleged confession was involuntary and his Miranda rights were violated.
He was retried in 1981 and found guilty on two counts of murder. Two of the three star informants who testified in the second trial recanted their testimony two years later.
Savory served nearly 30 years after his conviction before being paroled in 2006.
State's Attorney Jerry Brady has officially opposed the request in a filing this week, stating that such a request fails on the legal aspects. After the hearing, Brady said he was duty-bound to follow the law and the law didn't allow Savory a chance to test the items.
In his motion last month, Savory asked DNA testing of blood found on a knife that prosecutors claimed was the murder weapon. Savory claims the blood is from his father, who used the knife to remove stitches from his leg.
But Brady's office in a 19-page response filed Monday, states that even if the knife was used by Savory's father, "one doesn't preclude the other."
"There it is entirely possible that (Savory) used the knife to murder the two victims, cleaned the knife and then left it at his residence where (Savory's father) at some point later then used the knife. ..." Brady's response states.
Savory also wants to test a bloody light switch plate found in the bathroom where the killer was believed to have cleaned up before leaving the scene, among other things.
But before any arguments can occur, Kouri asked Brady to ascertain whether the evidence is still around and if so, what shape it is in. As the judge put it, that's step 1. If the evidence isn't there, then there is no need for arguments on whether to test it.
, an attorney with the Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions
, which is handling Savory's case, agreed and said he planned to file an amended petition for testing within the week. Brady then has until Jan. 4 to file a response, and Savory's attorneys can file their response to Brady by the Jan. 25.
The issues are whether or not Savory's request has anything new, legally. Savory has repeatedly tried and failed to convince both state and federal judges to order DNA testing he says will clear his name.
But he seemed confident Wednesday that he would prevail this time, saying the truth would come out.