Attorneys for convicted ex-cop seek new trial

Sentencing for Howard Morgan delayed until April 5

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By LA RISA LYNCH

Updated 2/22/2012 4:25 p.m.

Attorneys for Howard Morgan, the former Chicago cop and railroad police officer shot 28 times by Chicago police officers, filed a motion for a new trial Tuesday in the Cook County Criminal Courts division.

Last month, Morgan was found guilty of shooting at four Chicago police officers during a February 2005 traffic stop in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

Morgan was convicted on four counts of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm. He faces up to 80 years in prison for the attempted murder convictions and 60 years for aggravated battery charge.

Morgan's wife, Rosalind Morgan, said her husband's attorneys filed the motion for a new trial based on the issue of double jeopardy. She questioned how her husband could be found guilty of shooting at the police when, in 2007, Howard Morgan was acquitted of firing a weapon during his first trial.

"Why are we here today?" Rosalind Morgan asked.

She said this has been a trying time for her husband, whose bail was revoked after his conviction last month.

Howard Morgan was tried in 2007 for traffic stop where police alleged Morgan fired a pistol at officers. Police had stopped Morgan's van, which was going the wrong way with its lights off down as one-way street near 19th Street and Lawndale Avenue.

A struggle ensued and police responded with a barrage of bullets that struck Morgan 28 times.

In the 2007 trial, Morgan was acquitted of two counts of aggravated battery and one count of discharge of a firearm. A mistrial was declared on five other counts when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The acquittal on the firearm discharge is among several issues Morgan's attorneys will examine for the new trial.

"We are raising it on that he was acquitted of conduct that he was tried for a second time," said Morgan's attorney, Herschella Conyers.

Conyers said the motion for a new trail is part of the appeal process. Morgan's attorneys will review pre-trial and trial transcripts to ensure "we have detected all of the errors that we believe maybe appealable," Conyers said.

The appeal process, Conyers added, will also look at the trial judge's refusal to inform the jury of the 2007 acquittal for firing a weapon. She said case law exists in which juries can be informed of what happened in the first trial.

"We argued that before this trail, and the judge denied our motion, and that is one of the errors that we are alleging - that we should have been allowed to tell the jury that he was acquitted," Conyers said.

The new trial motion delayed Morgan's sentencing date until April 5. Conyers expects the judge to rule on both the new trial motion and Morgan's sentencing on that date.

Meanwhile, there has been a growing social media campaign to increase awareness and support of Howard Morgan's plight. The Free Howard Morgan campaign grew out of the Jericho Walk initiative, a worldwide movement to tear down the walls of injustice, racism and violence impacting people of color.

Melishia Bansa, the director of the Free Howard Morgan Campaign, said what happened to Morgan shows the prevalence of police brutality.

"If [police] could do this to him ... they could do this to anybody," Bansa said. "I never in my life heard of a man being shot 28 times and living to tell the story."

The campaign includes an online petition drive, and a YouTube video. The campaign hopes to secure 25,000 signatures demanding Morgan's release.

Campaign organizers plan to deliver the petitions to Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Bansa said the effort is to hold elected officials accountable when police break the law.

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