Suffredin understands cop outrage but glad cop-killer client being freed

SHARE Suffredin understands cop outrage but glad cop-killer client being freed

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin understands why police officers are angry the Illinois Prisoner Review Board has ordered the release of the killer of a Chicago cop.

The board voted 8-6 Thursday to free Joseph Bigsby, who was serving a sentence of 100 to 200 years in prison for the 1973 murder of Chicago Police Officer Edward L. Barron.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called the decision a “travesty.” The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation said the decision was “disappointing.”

“I appreciate their strong feelings,” Suffredin said Friday. “But he served 42-plus years. That’s not a slap on the hand.”

Joseph Bigsby, who was sentenced to 100 to 200 years in prison for killing a Chicago cop. Illinois Department of Corrections photo

Suffredin has a personal stake in Bigsby’s case: He was the lead public defender at his trial in 1975. The other public defender was John Cullerton, now the president of the Illinois Senate.

Over the years, Suffredin has attended parole hearings for Bigsby at Danville Correctional Center, where Bigsby was imprisoned, although he didn’t attend Thursday’s hearing, which was packed by dozens of cops objecting to Bigsby’s release.

Suffredin said he watched Bigsby — who was 16 when he killed Barron on Sept. 28, 1973 — grow from an immature teenager to a grown man who took responsibility for his terrible crime.

In prison, Bigsby, 58, trained as a carpenter and electrician. He was a few hours shy of receiving a bachelor’s degree, Suffredin said.

Prison officials “told me he was kind of a mentor who they would put with young people when they came in to teach them how to adjust to the penitentiary and not screw up,” Suffredin said.

“He’d really become one of the most impressive inmates in the Illinois system.”

The board found Bigsby had rehabilitated himself in prison and released him despite the protests of Barron’s former partner and organizations such as the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and the Fraternal Order of Police.

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Officer Edward L.Barron, who was gunned down in 1973.

Police officers were furious.

McCarthy called the decision “an affront to the entire law enforcement community.”

“Bigsby, who has served less than 40 percent of his original sentence, will now be able to enjoy the freedoms and pleasures of life, things which he readily denied Officer Barron when he murdered him,” McCarthy said.

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The body of slain Chicago police Officer Edward L Barron is carried in to St. George Church as his wife Nancy Barron looks on. Sun-Times file photoBarron and his partner, Officer Daniel Abate, were responding to a robbery call in the 8000 block of South Kingston. When the officers jumped out of their car and announced they were the police, Bigsby fired at Abate, who returned fire and struck Bigsby in the leg.

Only then did Abate notice his partner was down, struck under the right eye by a bullet.

The robbery victims said Bigsby stole a total of just over $2 from them — 55 cents from one of them and $1.50 from the other — along with a wristwatch, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report. Bigsby admitted he had taken barbiturates before the holdup.

Barron, 36, had been a police officer for three years. He was married and the father of a boy and girl.

When he sentenced Bigsby in 1975, Judge Albert Porter told him he wished he could have imposed the death penalty.

“There are some cases that are so heinous and abhorred so much by society that, in my opinion, there is no room for rehabilitation. I feel this is one of those cases,” Porter said.

The Illinois Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1975. It was reinstated two years later.

Illinois Prisoner Review Board member Edith Crigler, herself the widow of a police officer, was among those voting Thursday to release Bigsby.

“We, as a society, must show compassion,” Crigler said.

She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court recently outlawed the death penalty and mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

Bigsby has been serving an “indeterminate sentence.” Such sentences were last handed out in 1978, when the Illinois General Assembly mandated fixed-term sentences.

In 2013, fewer than 250 inmates with indeterminate sentences — so-called “C” class prisoners — remained in the Illinois corrections system.

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Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. Sun-Times file photo

Bigsby plans to serve his parole in Maryland. He’ll live with a sister and her husband, Suffredin said.

Suffredin said he believes Bigsby already would have completed his sentence if it had been handed down after 1978 as a fixed prison term.

“I believe we are a just society — and this is a decision that is a reasonable one,” he said.

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Nancy Barron, wife of slain Chicago cop Edward L. Barron. Sun-Times file photo


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