John Marshall Branion Trial: 1968
On The Run
In 1971, Branion, sensing that the end was nigh, fled the country. After an amazing jaunt across Africa he found asylum in Uganda, occasionally acting as personal physician to Idi Amin, that country's dictator. Upon Amin's ouster, Branion was arrested and returned to the United States in October 1983.
Yet another stunning twist came in 1986, when Judge Reginald Holzer received an 18-year jail sentence for extortion and racketeering. Branion's lawyers seized this opportunity to charge that Holzer had received a $10,000 bribe during the 1968 trial, paid by the defendant's brother-in-law, Nelson Brown. Prosecutor Patrick Tuite admitted that he had heard rumors of Holzer's intention to overturn Branion's conviction and had gone to see him, urging that the law be allowed to take its course. The speculation is that Holzer, unnerved by Tuite's visit, swindled those who allegedly paid the bribe, then sought to placate them by substituting a ludicrously low bail of $5,000, allowing Branion to escape. Because there was no way of corroborating the story—Brown had himself been stabbed to death in 1983—this final effort to overturn Branion's conviction met with the same fate as its predecessors.
After serving just seven years of his sentence, Branion was released from prison in August 1990 on health grounds. One month later, at age 64, he died of a brain tumor and heart ailment.
Branion's conviction stunned Chicago's black community. Initial outrage over a perceived lack of police effort in apprehending the killer quickly turned to fury when the verdict of the jury was announced.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Jet. (October 22, 1990): 18.
Sanders, Charles L. "A Man On The Run." Ebony (July 1984): 112-119.
Tuohy, James and Rob Warden. Greylord. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1989.
265 North Eastern Reporter, 2nd Series. St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing. 1971.