Apr 29, 2002
On April 24, Cook County Judge Paul Biebel appointed a special prosecutor to examine whether the police conspired to cover up the use of torture to extract false confessions. The special prosecutor will review more than 60 cases of men who charge they were tortured by Police Commander Jon Burge or more than a dozen cops under him. There are a dozen men now on death row who were convicted by these forced confessions.
Men were suffocated, given electrical shocks, beaten with baseball bats and a telephone book, savagely kicked in the groin, hanged by their wrists, or had their testicles squeezed. All these men were convicted on the basis of confessions – many of them false – made under torture.
Burge was fired by the Chicago Police Department in 1993, following a report by the Police Office of Professional Standards, which found that torture and abuse under Burge was common. It cited 50 cases of tortured people who made forced confessions. But Burge was never charged with any crime, and has moved to Florida, where he continues to receive a police pension.
By contrast, dozens of men who may have confessed to something they didn’t do because of torture are still rotting in prison. Most of the torture occurred when Mayor Daley was State’s Attorney. His office knew full well that these confessions were extracted through torture, but they presented the false evidence and sent men to prison and death row on that basis.
Justice can never be done in these cases. But at the very least, all the cops involved should be sent to prison – as should those in the State’s Attorney’s office, starting with the mayor, who presented false evidence. All the men in prison due to forced confessions need to be released and compensated for the years stolen from their lives. We’ll see if the special prosecutor’s office – which has promised justice – delivers it.