A former Chicago cop and railroad police officer was found guilty of shooting at four Chicago police officers during a February 2005 traffic stop in the North Lawndale neighborhood.
Howard Morgan, who survived being shot 28 times by Chicago police during that traffic stop was convicted on four counts of attempted first degree murder of a police officer and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The jury returned the verdict after deliberating for nearly three hours late Friday night at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building, 2650 S. California Ave. Morgan’s bond, which was put up by an anonymous donor six years ago, was revoked and he was taken into custody.
Morgan faces up to 80 years in prison for the attempted murder conviction and up to 60 years for aggravated battery with a firearm. Ironically, Morgan’s next court date is Feb. 21, seven years to the day he was shot by police.
Although Morgan’s family denounced the verdict, his wife Rosalind Morgan said the outcome was expected “when you are dealing with unvirtuous people.” She said the prosecutors were intent to get him, but she vowed to continue to fight for justice for her husband.
“They wanted to get him – then all right – you have him where you want him, but God is protecting him,” she said.
Morgan, however, called the retrial of her husband “double jeopardy.” She questioned how her husband can be tried on attempted murder charges when in the first trial he was found not guilty of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
“This is double jeopardy, and that’s supposed to be against the law. But because he is an African American that’s doesn’t matter,” Rosalind Morgan said.
Howard Morgan was originally tried in 2007 for the Feb. 21, 2005 incident. He was charged with four counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
Police contended that Morgan shot a pistol at officers, emptying a clip before police responded by firing a barrage of bullets at Morgan, hitting him 28 times.
A jury quitted Morgan on the two counts of aggravated battery as well as the discharge of a firearm. But the jury was hung on the remaining five other counts. Judge Clayton Crane who presided over both cases, declared a mistrial in 2007.
Howard Morgan’s defense team plans to appeal Friday’s verdict. Attorney Herschella Conyers believes that there are double jeopardy issues with the second trial. Conyers said they will focus their appeal on that and will file a federal habeas corpus petition.
“The first three acquittals actually determined the facts that he did not discharge a weapon,” Conyers said.
Conyers said she was stumped by the verdict. In her closing remarks, she argued that it was impossible for Morgan to fire a gun that was tucked in his waistband when police had him pinned to the ground. She noted that Morgan had 17 bullet holes in his back.
“Seems a little odd to me, [but] obviously, not to the jury,” Conyers told the Austin Weekly News. “They must have believed he was firing.”
Morgan took the stand Friday in a trial that lasted nearly eight hours. He testified that he did not fire his pistol at four white police officers when he was stopped for a traffic violation.
Police stopped Morgan’s van, which was traveling the wrong way with its lights off down a one-way street near 19th Street and Lawndale Avenue. Morgan said he was heading to his home a block away on Ridgeway Avenue after leaving his job as a police officer for Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad. Morgan said he was authorized through his job to carry his weapon, a 9 mm Glock, while off duty.
Morgan testified that police had their guns drawn when they yanked him out of his van. A struggle ensued when Morgan testified he tried to identify himself a police officer. Prosecutors argued that police returned fire after Morgan opened fire on them. Morgan was struck 28 times while three officers sustained minor wounds.
A chilling moment in the trial came when prosecutors played the police dispatch recordings, where juries heard frantic shouts of “shots fired,” “officer down” and “I need an ambulance.” Prosecutors contend that Morgan fired 17 rounds at police.
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Groth argued that when the shooting was over “everyone had bullets in their gun except the defendant.” He noted police fired 36 shots in total, adding that Morgan’s claim that he was shot 28 times is “a plea for sympathy.”
When asked how Morgan, who still has bullet fragments lodged in his body, reacted to the verdict, Conyers said he was disappointed, but she said he is relying on his spiritual strength.
“He and his family have been praying and will continue to pray and that is the source of his strength,” Conyers said. “This has been going on a long time, and it’s going to keep going on.”