After three years of exhausting legal maneuvering, in late 1957 Roger Touhy and Bob Johnstone stood before the State of Illinois Pardon and Parole Board and Roger told his story.
When he was finished speaking, Benjamin Adamowski, the States Attorney for Cook County who had successfully tossed him back into Stateville on the aiding and abetting technicality, strode into the room and asked to be heard.
"My hopes sank," Touhy said, "...his words could condemn me."
But what Adamowski said surprised everyone. "My office has no objection to the release from prison of Mr. Touhy...in fact, I would urge it."
Eventually, and again with Robert Johnstone's help, Roger's 199-year term was reduced to three years on institutional parole, reducing his kidnapping sentence to six months. After that, he was to begin the commuted jail break sentence which was to expire April 27, 1961.
On November 13, 1959, Roger Touhy, a greying man of sixty-one, was paroled from prison after serving twenty-five years, nine months and thirteen days for a crime of which he was innocent. His health was gone and so was his money. He had been bled dry by the legal fees incurred from his seventeen denied petitions for freedom, which included four denials by the United States Supreme Court.
As he walked from the prison for the last time, he was draped in a gray overcoat that had been purchased for him in 1958 for his court appearances and a blue suit made in the prison tailor shop. He had the $600 which had remained on deposit in the prison before his 1942 escape.
Clara waited at the gates for him. They hugged for several minutes and whispered to each other through tears, and then walked, hand in hand, out of the prison. Bent and limping slightly, Touhy gave his first and last press conference on television as well as talking to print reporters at the Stateville guard house. He told the reporters that there was a gag order imposed on him. He disagreed with the order "since they didn't put one on Factor" but told reporters that he would have to be careful which questions he answered nonetheless.
There was an awkward silence for a moment which Roger broke. Referring to his first release several years before he said, "Any you guys get the feeling we've been through this before?"
That loosened things up.
He looked up at the grey skies and held his hand out to feel the mixture of light rain and snow falling around him.
"You know, it's funny. It was the same kind of day when I entered this place way back then."
"What are you going to do now, Mr. Touhy?" "Please call me Roger...I've invented a lure for fresh water fishing; I'm going to manufacture it."
"Ever manufacture anything before, Rog?" Touhy's eyes lit up. "Beer!"
"Do you hold any grudges, Mr. Touhy?"
"No. They have to live with their consciences." "Who are they? Who do you mean by they?" Johnstone leaned forward and whispered for his client not to reply.
"Roger, are you looking for Factor?"
"No. I'm not looking for anyone. I'm just going to take it easy for a while and see my wife and my two sons."
"Why did you lead the prison breakout?"
"I didn't plan it, I didn't lead it, I just went along." "Did you learn anything in prison?"
"Nope. Not a goddamn thing."
Johnstone broke in "Well you learned patience, Roger. "
Always a proud man, Roger fought back tears and said with a trembling chin, "You know, I never gave up hope that one day I would be standing here a free man."
He said he planned to move to Florida with his sons Roger Jr. and Tommy who were now in their mid-thirties with families of their own.
For the time being, he would live with his sister Ethel11, who had made more than two thousand visits to her brother over the past quarter of a century and had appeared at seemingly endless hearings. During his internment she had worked her way, alone for the most part, through a maze of legal avenues in numerous attempts to free her brother from prison.
As he was driven back to Chicago in his nephew's cramped sports car, he thumbed through his personal belongings. There were two pictures drawn by his sons. He chuckled when he came across his 1942
draft card and a tiny black notebook with entries going back to 1919 when he was in the Navy. "I kept my telephone numbers and addresses of all my beer stops in code all through Prohibition. Nobody knew the code but me."
His color was pale and his hands shook as he thumbed through the book. Like his brothers, Roger suffered from the ravages of Parkinson's Disease, a degenerative disease of the nervous system then called "the shaking palsy."
As ordered, Roger went to the parole office in Chicago where he was given the details of the gag order he was under. Conversations with the media about the case were absolutely forbidden. An hour later, the ex-prisoner was dining on brisket of beef and hash brown potatoes in a west side restaurant with Ethel and Mike.11 "Delicious, delicious" he muttered over and over again.
He would be dead within forty-nine hours.