Their attorneys had argued for years that the evidence supported new trials for convicted killers Marvin Reeves and Ronald Kitchen. On Thursday, a judge agreed new trials were warranted, but the attorney general's office chose not to pursue them saying it could not sustain its burden of proof. So Marvin Reeves and Ronald Kitchen walked out of the Cook County courthouse as free men.
"I am so glad this is all over. You don't know how many times I done walked up them stairs and went into that court. It's been a long time," said Pollyanna Reeves, mother of Martin Reeves.
Pollyanna Reeves and her family wait for a moment they had hoped would one day come.
Pollyanna's son, Marvin who is now 50, was convicted 18 years ago of the murders of two women and their children, ages 5, 3, and 2. One of the adult victims allegedly owed a drug debt. She and the others were suffocated. The house they were in was set on fire.
Reeves was sentenced to five life terms while another defendant, Ronald Kitchen, was sentenced to death.
Both men had argued that they had been railroaded by police under disgraced commander Jon Burge. Kitchen had confessed, but claimed it was coerced.
"It was produced as the result of a beating that was inflicted on him by officers at Area 3 working under Jon Burge," said Tom Geraghty, attorney for Kitchen.
On Tuesday afternoon, a decade after lawyers began working their appeals, and nearly two decades after they went to prison, Marvin Reeves and Ronald Kitchen were set free.
"It really hasn't hit me yet. It's like surreal. I guess now it will be nice to sit down and take a hot bath. It might hit me then," said Ronald Kitchen.
During his conversation with reporters, Kitchen took his first cell phone call. His newfound freedom, he says, is surreal after spending nearly half his life behind bars.
"As long as Jon Burge is free and it's proved, the fight has to continue," said Martin Reeves.
"It's all got to sink in. All got to sink in," said Martin Reeves.
Marvin Reeves chose to keep his words to a minimum as he joined his family, beginning life again as a free man at 50.
Kitchen becomes the 20th death row inmate to be exonerated since the death penalty was re-instated in Illinois. Both he and Reeves are filing court motions asking for declarations of actual innocence which would entitle them to roughly $200,000 dollars in compensation for being wrongfully convicted.
Their release means the murders of two women and three children 21 years ago moves into the unsolved category.