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Ex-Chicago Cop Freed From Death Row

January 19, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ A former Chicago police officer convicted of murder has become the 13th inmate released from death row since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977.

Prosectors dropped the charges against Steve Manning on Tuesday and said they did not intend to retry him.

However, Manning will not be released from prison as a result of the decision because he faces two life sentences plus 100 years in Missouri on unrelated kidnapping charges. He is also appealing those convictions.

The murder conviction was reversed in 1998 after the state Supreme Court ruled improper evidence was used to convict him of first-degree murder in the 1990 slaying of trucking company owner Jimmy Pellegrino.

During Manning’s 1993 trial, a jailhouse informant testified that while he and Manning shared a jail cell, Manning twice confessed to Pellegrino’s slaying. But an FBI-requested secret tape recording of the conversation didn’t reveal a confession.

Bob Benjamin, a spokesman for Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, said his office dropped the charges because the ruling that reversed Manning’s conviction also barred prosecutors from using the tape at a new trial.

Illinois now has had more inmates released from death row than executed since the death penalty was reinstated. Twelve inmates have been executed.

New trials helped clear some of the 13 released inmates, while others successfully appealed their convictions or were exonerated through DNA evidence.

Three had student journalists help set them free.

Anthony Porter was released last February, after a journalism professor and several students from his investigative reporting class at Northwestern University gathered evidence suggesting Porter was wrongly convicted of two murders. Another man eventually confessed.

In 1997, the professor and another group of students helped free four men wrongfully convicted in a 1978 gang rape and double murder. Two of the four had been sentenced to death. DNA tests not available two decades ago exonerated the four.

In the wake of the case, Illinois passed a law giving death row inmates a right to DNA testing in cases where identity is an issue and test results could potentially prove innocence.

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