The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 27      July 19, 2010

Chicago cop lied about
police torture of suspects
(feature article)
CHICAGO—Seventeen years after being fired from the Chicago police department for suffocating, shocking, and beating confessions out of suspects, Jon Burge was convicted here June 28 on federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying about the torture in a civil lawsuit.

Burge, a police lieutenant on Chicago’s South Side, ran the notorious “Midnight Crew”—a gang of detectives that for decades extracted confessions from suspects through torture. More than 100 people, most of them Black males, have stepped forward with accounts of the abuse.

Four of the 100 testified at Burge’s trial. Previous testimony from a fifth brutalized suspect, Andrew Wilson, was read into the record. Wilson died in prison in 2007.

The witnesses detailed beatings with pistols and flashlights; suffocations; electric shocks to genitals, ears, and other body parts; Russian roulette “games”; and other methods that forced them to confess to crimes they did not commit.

Their testimony was bolstered by doctors and nurses who witnessed their injuries and by the testimony of former Chicago police detective Michael McDermott, who testified against his former boss in exchange for immunity.

“Finally, the poor people won,” Mark Clements told the press after the verdict. Clements, a victim of cop torture, was released from prison last year after being incarcerated for nearly 30 years. “Hopefully Jon Burge will receive an appropriate sentence and he will have time to think about the consequences of his actions,” Clements said.

The refusal of those tortured to accept their treatment in silence, their pursuit of legal action, and mounting outrage especially in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods led to the exposure of the cops’ practices and to Burge’s conviction.

In 1993 the Chicago police department finally fired Burge. But it would take nearly two decades more to get Burge convicted of a crime.

In January 2003 then Illinois governor George Ryan pardoned several men on death row who had been tortured under Burge’s reign into confessing to murders they did not commit.

In 2006 a special Cook County prosecutor’s investigation concluded that the actions of Burge and others were indeed torture but that the statute of limitations had run out for prosecution of their crimes.

In 2008 Burge was arrested and charged with lying about the torture in a lawsuit filed by former death row inmate Madison Hobley. Burge’s trial got under way this year, ending with his conviction. He remains free on bond awaiting sentencing and still draws a pension.

Ronald Kitchen, tortured under Burge and jailed for 21 years for murders he did not commit, has filed a civil suit against him and other officials, including Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who was Cook County state’s attorney at the time of Kitchen’s conviction.

A doctor who examined Wilson after he was tortured by Burge’s men wrote a letter to then police superintendent Richard Brzeczek noting Wilson’s condition and proposing an investigation into possible police brutality. Brzeczek forwarded the letter to Daley. No investigation ever took place.

Speaking to reporters immediately following Burge’s conviction, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced that the ex-cop could get 45 years in jail.

Three African American members of Congress from the Chicago area—Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Bobby Rush—along with U.S. senator Roland Burris announced plans to introduce bills in the Senate and House of Representatives that would lift the statute of limitations on charges of torture by police.

“The conviction of Jon Burge, even on the lesser charges he faced, is a victory for all working people,” said Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois. “It sends a message to would-be cop torturers that their actions will not go undiscovered and unchallenged. All working people should join those who courageously spoke out against this brutality in demanding the prosecution and conviction of all the cops involved.”
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Trial of Oakland cop who shot Oscar Grant goes to L.A. jury  
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