image CHICAGO HAS A LONG HISTORY OF COVERING UP TORTURE REPORTS, PART IV

This blog is part of a series detailing Chicago’s powerful,  refusing to take responsibility for the hundreds of torture claims by victims of brutal treatment by police for a period of over 25 years. So, now when the Chicago police deny that the allegations of current abuse reports as alleged in the 2/24 and the 2/25/15 Guardian news outlet. they have no credibility. The Guardian exposé revealed that the Homan Square  police facility is being operated similar to a CIA “black site.”

The Guardian has reported that detainees have been held for hours without being booked into the computer system at a time frame way beyond what is standard at other detainee locations Then these victims are subject to other indignities for many hours such as being handcuffed to a bar; being denied access to an attorney despite numerous requests; being deprived of food and water; suffering extreme temperatures; being subject to isolation and no comfortable place to sleep and then being interrogated at length.

With the Chicago’s history of lying about past torture complaints that I have documented, nothing short of a thorough, competent, independent and an above board investigation as to the veracity of the above claims, is acceptable.

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The reference for this background material is by G. Flint Taylor of Peoples Law Offices, titled, “A Long and Winding Road: The Struggle for Justice in the Chicago Police Torture Cases.” The following are some excerpts spanning the years from 2003 to 2007.

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January 2003, Governor George Ryan, on successive days, granted innocence pardons to death row torture survivors Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, Stanley Howard and Aaron Patterson, and then commuted the sentences of all the other men and women on Illinois’ death row to life in prison without parole.”

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These lawsuits (2003) gave the lawyers for the pardoned survivors a revitalized avenue to obtain even more evidence of this pattern, including witness statements from five retired African American detectives who revealed that they periodically heard screams, saw the torture box, and knew that torture by Burge and Byrne’s midnight crew was an “open secret” at Area 2 during the 1980s. Scores of detectives, including Burge and all of the midnight crew, pleaded the Fifth Amendment when called to testify at their depositions, but Burge initially committed a crucial mistake that would later lead to his indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice by denying in sworn written interrogatory answers that he knew of, or participated in, torture at any time while he was a police officer.

The Movement Turns to the International Arena

Frustrated by the approach of the special prosecutors, who had repeatedly shown hostility to the torture survivors and their lawyers and had rejected community requests for independent African American lawyers to be added to their team, the movement against police torture turned to the international arena to further plead its case.

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The Movement Turns to the International Arena

Frustrated by the approach of the special prosecutors, who had repeatedly shown hostility to the torture survivors and their lawyers and had rejected community requests for independent African American lawyers to be added to their team, the movement against police torture turned to the international arena to further plead its case.

A group of approximately 50 organizations and individuals, including the Midwest Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), the National Lawyers Guild, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the NAACP, the ACLU, and the Christian Council on Urban Affairs, petitioned and obtained a hearing before the Inter American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR).

At this hearing, which was held in Washington, D.C., in October 2005, a Burge torture survivor, lawyers from the People’s Law Office, and several activists testified and presented evidence to the commission. The movement then turned to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT). The MCHR and lawyers from the People’s Law Office, who joined with numerous national human rights organizations, presented the unresolved issue of Chicago police torture to CAT as part of a broader picture of systemic U.S. human rights violations that also included torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. In May 2006, a lawyer from the People’s Law Office appeared before CAT in Geneva, Switzerland to personally argue the case for U.S. prosecutions of Burge and his men. In a significant victory for the movement, CAT subsequently issued a report that linked Chicago police torture to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib while calling on the U.S. government to “promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate” all acts of Area 2 and 3 torture and to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”

JON BURGE
JON BURGE

A Report but No Indictments

Meanwhile, in early 2006, the special prosecutors announced that they were concluding their investigation. Despite the existence of some prosecutable perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy charges against Burge and his confederates, it was becoming apparent that no indictments would be forthcoming.

During the spring of 2006, the special prosecutors on several occasions informed Judge Biebel in open court that their report was not yet ready, while lawyers for Burge and his confederates fought to keep the report secret. Lawyers for the torture survivors pressed for its release while using these occasions to explain to the media and the public why indictments were both necessary and obtainable and to focus on the central role of former State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley in rejecting the opportunity to prosecute Burge when he was first appraised of Burge’s criminal conduct decades before.

Finally, in July 2006, the special prosecutors issued their 192-page report, which was accompanied by front-page headlines, top-of-the-news coverage, and newspaper editorials. In their report, the special prosecutors found that abuse occurred beyond a reasonable doubt in three cases, including Wilson’s, and that it likely occurred in many others; they also singled out former Police Superintendent Brzeczek for his failure to investigate or fire Burge. The special prosecutors attempted to justify their refusal to bring perjury and obstruction of justice indictments, and they invoked the statute of limitations as the basis for not indicting for the torture itself. The report absolved Daley and Devine, ignored the systemic and racist nature of the torture, and steadfastly avoided calling electric shock, suffocation, and mock executions torture. Reacting to the report, Daley condemned the torture but carefully avoided taking any responsibility for the torture scandal.

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Reaction to the Special Prosecutors’ Report

Fueled by community outrage at the failure to indict or to place responsibility where it belonged, lawyers and activists at the People’s Law Office, the MacArthur Justice Center, and Northwestern Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Center embarked on the task of drafting a “shadow report.” This report set forth in detail the evidence and findings that were ignored by the special prosecutors, and it explained why Burge and his men could be, and should be, indicted. The shadow report also called on the Chicago, Cook County, and U.S. governments to take action. More than 200 local and national human rights, civil rights and anti-racist organizations and activists signed the shadow report, and it was released at a press conference in April 2007. The shadow report also called on the Chicago, Cook County, and U.S. governments to take action.  More than 200 local and national human rights, civil rights and anti-racist organizations and activists signed the shadow report, and it was released at a press conference in April 2007. The report led to the holding of open hearings before the Cook County Board and Chicago City Council at which torture survivors, torture experts, lawyers, and activists all testified. Evidence presented at the City Council hearing also established that the City had, at that time, spent more than $10 million in taxpayer money to defend Burge and the City in the damages cases, while the special prosecutors had been paid $7 million for their work. A Chicago Sun-Times Editorial decried the City’s continued role in defending Burge and for his pension to be “pulled.” At this point a substantial number of City and county politicians became actively and vocally involved, and a number of them spoke out at the City Council hearing, condemning the torture, calling on the City to stop defending Burge in the civil rights damages cases, and calling on the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to prosecute Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice.

A Federal Investigation, More Exonerations, and an Indictment

In the wake of the special prosecutors’ report as well as the shadow report, the CAT findings, the City and county hearings, and the public outcry, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced that his office was investigating Burge for possible federal offenses.

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