Contributing Writer

‘I have a reason to be angry’

CHICAGO ( – One victim appealed for DNA testing. Another vowed to help others. Both called for justice.

Johnnie Lee Savory and Joyce Ann Brown were among a dozen wrongfully convicted former prisoners calling for justice in their cases and diligence in releasing others railroaded into prison sentences they did not deserve.


“My daughter is a teenage mother, my son committed suicide, and my mother walks with a limp, all because I was innocent in jail, instead of out taking care of my family,” Ms. Brown said April 26, speaking at Rainbow PUSH headquarters.

She spent “nine years, five months and 24 days” in jail for a 1980 robbery-murder of a fur store owner. Police said the crime was committed by a woman in a car rented in the same name as Ms. Brown’s. When Ms. Brown’s mother and other elders began calling her about the news reports, she went to the police station to clear things up.

Despite having timesheets and “27 Anglos” verifying that she was at work at the time, Ms. Brown said the prosecutor’s eye witness said she looked like the robber and an informant said she confessed to the crime.

Ms. Brown’s initial murder case was dropped for lack of evidence. However, prosecutors refilled the robbery charge and an all-White Texas jury convicted Ms. Brown, sentencing her to life. Ms. Brown’s story is told in the autobiography “Justice Denied.”

“I have a reason to be angry at Texas, but I don’t have time,” she said. “But don’t come here today feeling sorry for me. I need your assistance to help those who are innocent and still in prison.”

In 1977, Mr. Savory was picked up from his Peoria, Ill., high school by police and questioned about a double homicide of two teenagers. After hours of interrogation, Mr. Savory, then 14-years-old, confessed to the crime and was convicted.

His confession was thrown out in 1980 because he was not informed of his Miranda rights nor was he informed that he could have a parent present. He was convicted during a second trial based on the testimony of three people, two of whom later recanted their testimonies. He spent 32 years in jail.

At Rainbow PUSH, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others made references to the notorious Jon Burge cases, where the former Chicago police commander drew dozens of confessions from innocent victims through torture.

Rev. Jackson called on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to allow for DNA testing of the evidence in order to fully clear Mr. Savory. The evidence reportedly includes a pair of bloody pants and hair. Fingerprints at the murder scene also did not match Mr. Savory’s.

Mr. Savory said he could have served considerably less time if he had pled guilty with time served at his second trial when he was 17. But that was something that did not set will with his conscience.

“I refused to plead guilty because I knew I was innocent. I was convicted and I spent another 29 years in prison,” he said.

Related news:

Man freed after serving 21 years on wrongful conviction (FCN, 08-04-2006)

Former death row inmate files federal suit(FCN, 07-09-2003)

Innocence Project