On May 7, nearly six months after a class-action lawsuit was filed on the inmates’ behalf, Judge Paul Biebel appointed retired Cook County Justice Stuart Nudelman as special state’s attorney for the case.
The jailed defendants were among the many working people brutalized by the “Midnight Crew” — a gang of detectives headed by Police Lt. Jon Burge that for decades terrorized Chicago’s South Side, beating, suffocating and using other tortures to extract confessions from mainly Black men in their custody.
In June 2010 Burge was convicted on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the torture in a civil lawsuit. In January 2011 he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, which he began serving two months later.
Nudelman promised to resolve the cases with dispatch in answer to a question from the press about the foot-dragging process.
“The most significant thing about this decision,” Locke Bowman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said at a press conference that followed the announcement of Nudelman’s nomination “is that it heads toward acknowledging that all these guys deserve a new hearing, which they do. They all have credible claims of torture. They were all convicted on the basis of false confessions elicited from them through torture. Their convictions were unconstitutional.”
Among supporters of the still incarcerated victims of Burge who spoke to the press, the mood was somewhat more guarded.
Jeannette Plummer, mother of Johnnie Plummer, pointed out that her son was 15 years old when he was tortured and imprisoned 22 years ago. “He’ll never get that time back,” she said. “And these delays and drawn-out procedures are just adding to it. He should have been out already.”
“Burge’s sentence was four and a half years. That’s a joke,” said Curtistine Deloney, mother of prisoner Javon Deloney. He’ll be out before some of the men he tortured and put behind bars even get another hearing.”
“Even though Nudelman has been appointed special prosecutor, [Cook County State’s Attorney] Anita Alvarez still has the authority to do what’s right and simply drop the charges against all those who were tortured by Burge and his henchmen,” said Wallace Gator Bradley, who is involved in the fight to win release of Burge’s victims.
“The most important thing is to keep the pressure on,” said Mark Clements, who is administrator of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and spent 28 years in prison based on a “confession” beaten out of him by Burge’s men when he was 16 years old. Torture victim “Grayland Johnson died in prison before ever getting another hearing. Speediness is key here.”
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