Jane Ramsey says: As a co-chair of the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago for the past 10 years JCUA has worked tirelessly to organize social justice groups in Chicago. Our goal has been to help educate the public on matters of importance, especially on issues concerning the Burge trial, and to attain a special prosecutor to investigate the Burge case. We would like to commend all of the groups and individuals that have worked to finally bring justice to the former police commander. And remember, there is no statute of limitations on justice.
Officer Accused of Torture Is Guilty of Perjury
By MONICA DAVEY and EMMA GRAVES FITZSIMMONS (New York Times)
Published: June 28, 2010
CHICAGO — Three decades after criminal suspects interrogated at a South Side police station began complaining that they were being tortured into making confessions, a jury on Monday found a former police commander who led the unit guilty of crimes related to the abuse.
The former commander, Jon Burge, was not convicted of abusing prisoners — crimes for which the statute of limitations had passed — but of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the abuse in a civil case.
Yet the message for this city’s South Side — where relations between the police and black residents, especially, have been scarred by stories of suspects burned, suffocated with typewriter covers and shocked with electrical devices — was the same: Mr. Burge, whose name had become a symbol of police brutality, will face punishment.
Still, any joy was tempered by the fact that the prosecution had taken so long, that the conviction was not for torture itself, and that some 20 men here, according to Mr. Taylor, remain behind bars because of confessions that grew from abuse.
Outside court, Mark Clements sobbed and said he had spent almost 30 years in prison after being tortured into confessing to four murders. “I sat in a prison cell, and I prayed for this day,” he said.
Mr. Clements then asked, “What are we going to do about other people who are sitting in those prisons?”
Mr. Burge, who is 62 and in ill health, was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993. He faces up to 45 years in prison.
His effect on this city had many chapters. In 2003, George Ryan, then the governor of Illinois, pardoned four death row inmates who long said they had been abused by Mr. Burge and his officers. Then, four years ago, special prosecutors issued a report supporting the accusations that dozens of suspects had made.
At his monthlong trial, Mr. Burge vehemently denied wrongdoing, and his lawyers described him as a hero whom the city’s South Side would be better off to still have on the force.
The lawyers presented the jury’s decision as a choice between whether to believe the accounts of police officers or the tales of five men the defense team described as a “murderer’s row.”
Prosecutors portrayed Mr. Burge as a brash, boastful officer who attached shock devices to suspects, played Russian roulette by pointing guns at them and expected detectives to adhere to a “code of silence.”
Though prosecutors had focused on five men, it was clear more was at stake.
“Today,” David Weisman, an assistant United States attorney told jurors in closing remarks, “Chicago police officers are working hard to regain the trust that the defendant took away 20 years ago.”
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