Today's Chicago Tribune carries, "In prison, Ryan defends his widespread pardons and clemencies." It's written by Annie Sweeney.
At times he was testy and combative, unafraid to use a modest curse word to make a point. In lighter moments, he joked about the food in prison. He also talked of his frustration at being locked up.
Former Gov. George Ryan, who has zealously guarded his privacy since he entered federal prison in November 2007, was heard for the first time — not in an interview with a reporter but under questioning in a civil lawsuit.
The deposition came last March as an attorney for the city of Chicago questioned Ryan for two hours about a pardon he gave to Oscar Walden Jr. half a century after he was convicted of rape. Walden, who alleged Chicago police coerced him into confessing, sought $15 million in damages, but a federal jury sided with the city last week and didn't award him a dime.
Ryan offered few if any specifics on why he pardoned Walden, but he stridently defended his decision to clear death row and grant mass clemencies in his waning days in office in late 2002 and early 2003.
"I just used my judgment like I did on a lot of things," Ryan said. "That's what's called leadership."
Ryan said the state's flawed capital justice system first drew his attention a few months after taking office in 1999 when he watched a TV news report about the release of Anthony Porter, who had spent 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of a double murder.
"And I looked up, and here's this little black guy with a big grin on his face and curly hair, happy as hell that he'd just been released from prison after 15 years of incarceration as an innocent man," Ryan said. "It's a bad, bad situation for a country like ours to have a situation like that. … You know how close he came to getting executed? About 48 hours. They ordered his meal … measured him for his burial suit, and they were ready to juice the guy."
"George Ryan deposition sheds light on his Death Row decision," is the Chicago Sun-Times article by Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney.
It was a brief exchange, but the question was pointed: “Are you going to kill my son?”
From federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., former Gov. George Ryan, in what’s believed to be the first deposition he’s given about his historic 2003 clemency decision, said the question posed by a onetime classmate led to his move to clear out Death Row.
In a 2010 interview with lawyers, a sometimes combative, sometimes joking Ryan spoke at length about his clemency decision in response to a civil lawsuit, a newly released deposition shows. “A little prison food would probably be good for all of you. I think it’s baloney for lunch today,” Ryan tells attorneys at one point.
The Chicago Sun-Times last week revealed portions of Ryan’s deposition. The imprisoned former governor was compelled to answer a series of questions about why he granted an innocence pardon to Oscar Walden Jr., who was suing the City of Chicago for coercion in federal court.
In response to a freedom of information request, the city released Ryan’s deposition Monday.
While Ryan stuck to much of what he’s said previously regarding his decision, at times he revealed a personal side.
One of the cases he considered involved the son of a onetime high school classmate. The son was on Death Row for shooting a police officer. Ryan didn’t name the inmate, but said he bumped into the classmate at a meeting.
“That was a big impact on my decision, that statement in that meeting, that confrontation,” Ryan said.