03 October 2020 :
Renaldo Hudson was released. Hudson was one of 167 prisoners whose death sentences were commuted to life without parole by Governor George Ryan in January 2003. He was released from Danville Correctional Center on September 2, 2020, after Governor J.B. Pritzker granted him a second commutation, reducing his sentence to time served.
Hudson, now 56, Black, had been imprisoned 37 years since his arrest for a 1983 murder he committed while high on drugs. He was 19 years old at the time. His first trial in 1985 ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. At his second trial in 1990, he was convicted and sentenced to death.
While in prison, Hudson taught himself to read and write and became interested in religion, converting to Islam and later to Christianity. He earned a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree. He also graduated from a counselor’s program and became a certified literacy tutor. In 2003, Hudson created an essay contest that asked prisoners “who am I and what can I do better?” A collection of these essays was later published as a novel. In 2018, he created a peer mentorship program that has nearly 500 participants.
Hudson has long expressed remorse for his actions. He told the Chicago Tribune, “I will not attempt to make excuses. It was a horrible, horrible thing. … That’s a difficult thing to realize that you’re the person completely responsible for the death of someone and then such a horrible death.”
Hudson’s second clemency, which was part of a series of commutations Governor Pritzker granted in response to the coronavirus, was not opposed by Cook County District Attorney Kim Foxx. Nonetheless, Hudson did not expect it to happen. After his release, he told the Tribune:
“When my transformation started, you have to understand, I was preparing to die, I wasn’t preparing for this moment … for a chance to be set free. And, so, my transformation was for me. My transformation was that I didn’t want to die being good for nothing. I didn’t want to die knowing that no one cared.”