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Interview With Leroy Orange

Aired January 11, 2003 - 13:01   ET


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Now, to Illinois, outgoing Governor George Ryan is expected to commute the sentences of nearly prisoner on that state's death row. CNN's Jeff Flock is in Chicago, just about an hour before the governor is expected to speak publicly on this -- Jeff.
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CHICAGO BUREAU CHIEF: And I am happy to have the first interview with a man I met about three months ago, Leroy Orange. And we met in Cooke County jail and I asked you then about you thought it would be like to walk out of there, a free man. You didn't have much hope of that. What was it like, yesterday?

LEROY ORANGE, PARDONED INMATE: It is a traumatic feeling. A sigh of relief; a lot of pressure that was lifted from me that I didn't realize so much pressure was on me.

FLOCK: Did you ever think you'd get there?

ORANGE: I was hopeful that I would get there, but I never entertained the thought of getting there.

FLOCK: I have to take you to the news today. We have a live camera, across the way in the hall, where the governor will give a speech in about an hour. He will give clemency to everybody on death row. If you didn't get a pardon and didn't walk free, that would be you. Is that a good thing to do for the governor? Certainly there are guilty men on death row?

ORANGE: OK? Well, do you execute the innocent along with the guilty?

FLOCK: Because you contend they are innocent men there?

ORANGE: I'm sure there are innocent men there just like I am sure the state has executed innocent men before you decide to take a look at the situation here.

FLOCK: We have pictures of you in the jail; 19 years of your life spent there. If what you say is true, and you didn't commit that crime they took 19 years away.


FLOCK: You angry about that?

ORANGE: A little. FLOCK: Who you angry at?

ORANGE: John Burge (ph) and his detectives. People that tried to cover it up.

FLOCK: You're one of the Burge 10, which is 10 men on death row who had confessions tortured out of them -- at least they claim they did -- and now four of you have gone free. What was that experience like for you? That interrogation?

ORANGE: You feel like you're being raped. You are literally being raped to be handcuffed to a wall and have your clothes pulled down and have devices stuck into your cavities. It is being raped.

FLOCK: They used electric shock?

ORANGE: Yes, sir.

FLOCK: Did you believe it was the police doing that? I mean, what were you thinking as that was going on?

ORANGE: Of course, I believed it was the police.

FLOCK: But, I mean, could you believe it?

ORANGE: No. No, just once you realize though -- once that reality sinks in that these are the serve and protect guys that ride around the street, to protect cars. And they're doing this to you, then you're pretty much out of there.

FLOCK: I hear you. I have another picture of you yesterday getting into the car. You hadn't been in the car in how many years?

ORANGE: Nineteen.

FLOCK: You're putting the seatbelt on. It looks like you had a little trouble with it. What is this adjustment going to be like for you? Things like seatbelts and things we all take for granted sitting here on the outside? Anything already that has hit home? Anything you have to get used to?

ORANGE: Kids are more mature these days.

FLOCK: More mature than you were at that age?

ORANGE: I think so.

FLOCK: You got into your share of trouble when you were younger.

ORANGE: Right. I had a little difficulty figuring out how to actually unlock the door and getting in and out of a car.

I am taking it slow. I didn't know how to turn the shower on this morning and -- but after I got it on, I got kind of carried away and kept my attorney downstairs waiting why I was using all the different shampoos and different stuff ladies have in the shower. FLOCK: You didn't get that in Cook County -- or in prison?

ORANGE: No, in fact you want to run around naked in prison as less as possible. But this morning I had a ball.

FLOCK: I can imagine.

But there are a lot of things you have not had for 20 years?.

ORANGE: A lot.

FLOCK: What do you most want to do now that you're here in the real world?

ORANGE: Be positive influence with my kids, my grandkids.

FLOCK: I just met your son. You have daughters also?


FLOCK: They have missed you.

ORANGE: I have missed them.

FLOCK: What can you do to make that time up?

ORANGE: Whatever is necessary. They have been there for me.

FLOCK: They have, with you, all the way?


FLOCK: They always believed in your innocence?


FLOCK: Well, now one other man does. He's the governor of this state. And I got to believe you're grateful to him.


FLOCK: Leroy, thank you.


FLOCK: Good to be with you. Good luck on the outside.

ORANGE: Thank you very much.

FLOCK: Leroy Orange, 19 years in prison, on death row for a crime he says he didn't commit. And now, as we said, at least one other person believes that. And he's the man who had the power to set Mr. Orange and three other men free.

And in about an hour, or less, he will commute the sentences of perhaps as many as 150 -- 156 or so others. So, they are sure that they don't put any innocent men to death. It is an item that will be debated going forward.

That is the latest from Chicago.

Leroy, thanks.

Back to you.

SAN MIGUEL: Some very dramatic statements from Mr. Orange. And more drama coming from Illinois later today.

Jeff Flock, thank you for that report.


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