Chicago to pay $20 million to 4 men its police tortured into confessions and sent to death row. The four men were among scores of black men who reported being tor-tured, beaten with telephone books, and even suffocated with plastic typewriter covers during police interrogations in the 1970s and 1980s, special prosecutors found last year. The four men were pardoned by Gov. George Ryan in 2003. (NY Times, 12-8-2007)
The settlement comes at a time of tense relations between the Chicago Police Department and the city’s residents, following a string of incidents — the beatings of civilians caught on video-tape, a report showing a high rate of brutality complaints, a corruption investigation into an elite police unit. As one lawyer said ““It speaks volumes about the seriousness of the systematic tor-ture, abuse and cover-up that went on in the city of Chicago for decades.” Many of those who reported torture in police interrogation rooms pointed to a commander named Jon Burge, who was fired in 1993, and to those he supervised. (NY Times, 12-8-2007)
Several former Death Row inmates sued Burge and more than 20 officers who worked with him, alleging that they were coerced into falsely confessing to murder, using techniques like electric shock, Russian roulette, beatings and attempted suffocation. But prosecutors concluded that none of the men can be charged with a crime because the state’s three-year time limit on felony charges had passed. Burge is collecting his pension and living in Florida. (Chicago Tribune, 12-7-2007)
Last fall, the city reached a tentative, $14.8 million settlement with three of the men, who were allegedly coerced into murder confessions by Burge and his cohorts, and then pardoned and released from Death Row in 2003. That settlement was never forwarded to the City Council for approval. A City lawyer justified delaying payment because the US Justice department was investigating one of the three men. (Chicago Sun-Times, 12-7-2007)
A lawyer for the plaintiffs commented:
After Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the mayor’s office and many aldermen will undoubtedly try to pretend that the Burge cases are now old history. Been there, done that, we took care of it. Hardly.
+++ There continues to be the minor issue of DOZENS of other African American men serving long sentences downstate thanks to torture-induced “confessions” extracted by Burge and his associates.
+++ There continues to be the issue of criminal prosecution of Burge and his associates, many of whom continue to be employed in senior positions in the Chicago Police Department. The recent Special Prosecutors Report falsely claimed that due to the statute of limitations, Burge et al are immune from prosecution. Sorry, boys, but there’s no statute of limitations on conspiracy. In a just world, you would be dragged into criminal court right now.
+++ There continues to be the issue of the firing of these Burge associates. Many of them are still on the payroll, in senior positions.
+++ There continues to be the issue of restitution to dozens of other Burge, et al victims. Abu Ghraib in America continues to fester.
(Chicago IndyMedia, 12-8-2007)