Homicide investigators from Area One, the branch responsible for the neighborhood around Fifty-eighth and Michigan, took up the case. Even in a city that was averaging three murders a day, Area One detectives were exceptionally busy. Their territory included the notorious Robert Taylor Homes, twenty-eight public-housing towers whose stairwells were controlled by drug gangs. Robbery, rape, and murder were commonplace. “They were killing people left and right,” Kenneth Boudreau, a veteran detective who served in Area One, told me. The neighborhood was overwhelmingly black, but the police force was overwhelmingly white, and it struggled to establish authority. Tenants, seeing police below, sometimes threw trash from their windows. Many crimes went unsolved.
Cases that attracted significant media attention, however, often became known as “heaters,” drawing the resources necessary to make arrests and secure convictions. According to a 1992 article by Myron W. Orfield, Jr., a law professor at the University of Minnesota, heater cases were diverted to “judges statistically far more likely to convict.” Some cops tried to avoid the stress of such cases: in 2005, a retired detective told the Chicago Tribune, “You pray to God not to give you a heater case.” Others, like Boudreau, didn’t shirk the challenge.
Morgan’s case was a heater. Crime-lab technicians dusted the Cavalier, and three days later they pulled fingerprints from a Miller High Life bottle and a Löwenbräu forty-ounce that had been found in the car; the prints matched a set on file for Tyrone Hood, a resident of a South Side neighborhood eight miles away. Two detectives immediately began searching for him.
Shortly before 4 P.M., Hood was walking from his house to a corner store, the Munch Shop, when the officers, in an unmarked police car, pulled up alongside him. They informed him that his prints had turned up at a murder scene. Hood, who was twenty-nine, had a full, unpicked head of hair, and a tattoo of his nickname, Tony, on his left forearm. A married father of three, he cobbled together a living through temporary auto-repair jobs, construction gigs, and clerical work. He had grown up in a chaotic home, the eighth of ten children. An older brother had served time for robbing McDonald’s restaurants. When Hood was seventeen, two thieves shot and killed his father. Not long afterward, Hood was arrested twice for aggravated assault — one of the incidents involved unlawful use of a firearm — and once each for marijuana possession, battery, and theft. He had served a year on probation for the weapons charge. Now, facing the cops, he dismissed the possibility of his prints being at the scene. (“Someone must have put them there,” he later declared.) But he agreed to answer questions at the police station, to “clear his name.”
On May 8th, Hood said, he had spent the day at home with his family; that evening, he had watched “Cops” with his wife, Tiwanna. Later in the interrogation, though, he said that several people had come over, among them his friend Wayne Washington. When Hood was asked about his whereabouts on May 9th — Mother’s Day — he initially said that he had been with his mom. Then he said that he had stayed home with Tiwanna.
Kenneth Boudreau and his partner, John Halloran, took over the interrogation the next day. Boudreau considered himself an expert at separating a man from his secrets. “I have spent a lot of time learning how to interview people, and have been trained by the F.B.I.,” he told me recently. “You don’t have to beat people to get them to talk.” Chicago cops, however, have long been criticized for being overly aggressive. In 1931, a White House commission warned that the “third degree” — methods that “inflict suffering, physical or mental, upon a person in order to obtain information about a crime” — was “thoroughly at home in Chicago”; one preferred tactic involved beating a suspect in the head with a phone book, since it could “stun a man without leaving a mark.” In the late sixties, Chicago police officers shot and killed a Black Panther activist while he was in bed; his relatives received a large wrongful-death settlement. In 1982, a lieutenant named Jon Burge was accused of torturing Andrew Wilson, an alleged murderer of two police officers, who was in his custody. A doctor who examined Wilson found “multiple bruises, swellings, and abrasions,” and several “linear blisters.” Wilson claimed that he had been cuffed to a hot radiator and that “electrical shocks had been administered to his gums, lips, and genitals.” Burge was eventually fired for “systematic” misconduct.
Boudreau, a solidly built man who is now in his mid-fifties, told me that he had never relied on physical intimidation during interrogations. At the time of his encounter with Hood, Boudreau was an Army reservist. In 1990, during the Gulf War, he had deployed to Saudi Arabia; after the September 11th attacks, he had participated in the Ground Zero rescue effort. When he discussed interrogations with me, he spoke like a student of cognitive science. “It’s all right-brain, left-brain,” he said. “When someone is recalling something, they look left. But when they’re creating an answer they look right.” He claimed that people who spoke with their hands near their mouths were acting suspiciously, and theorized that “when someone’s tapping their leg you can see that if they had full movement they would be running away.”
Hood took a polygraph exam. Many scholars have questioned the reliability of such tests, but cops regularly use them. The polygraph technician detected “deception” in Hood’s answers. When Boudreau and Halloran pressed him over the inconsistencies in his story, Hood was impassive, telling them, “If I don’t say anything to explain, I will go to jail for a long time. If I do tell what happened, I will go to jail.” Hood later reported that Boudreau and his fellow-interrogators, frustrated with his refusal to confess, slapped him in the head and thrust a gun in his face, telling him that he could go home “if he signed ‘the papers.’ ” (Boudreau told me that he had not engaged in any abuse; Halloran declined to comment.)
After forty-eight hours in detention, Hood still maintained his innocence. Boudreau and his colleagues couldn’t hold him any longer without formally charging him, and they didn’t have enough evidence to succeed in court. On May 22nd, they let him go.
Three days after Hood left the station, investigators pulled another set of prints from a beer can in Morgan’s car and traced them to Joe West, who lived two blocks away from Hood. On May 27th, two detectives went looking for West; they didn’t find him, but came across Hood hanging out at the Munch Shop with his friend Wayne Washington. The cops, recalling that Washington had figured in Hood’s alibi, asked him if he would answer questions at the station. Washington agreed. Hood, who said that he didn’t want Washington to mistake him for a snitch, volunteered to go along and face further interrogation.
At the station, Hood and Washington were ushered into separate rooms. Detectives also tracked down West and another friend of Hood’s, Jody Rogers. Boudreau and three other detectives questioned West, who initially denied any knowledge of Morgan’s murder. But after West was informed that his fingerprints had been found on the beer can he told a different story. Wayne Washington and Jody Rogers, in turn, provided details that complemented West’s account. [more]