Torture and Justice in Chicago
After years of fighting, organizing and exposing the cases of the Death Row 10 and the entire Burge torture scandal, we now stand at a major turning point in our movement.
In 2002, we won the right to have a special prosecutor investigate the issue of police torture. I was thrilled with having independent investigators look into this scandal, because I was positive it would reveal that fired Chicago police Commander Jon Burge and his underlings (who were all white) had systematically tortured over 150 Black criminal suspects.
Finally, after four long years of nail-biting anticipation, Special Prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Bole finally released their report. They found credible evidence of torture, but claimed that the statute of limitations had expired on bringing charges.
The report took everyone by surprise, because it was an obvious attempt to cover up and whitewash the role many public officials played in the scandal, including Chicagoís current mayor, Richard M. Daley, the top stateís attorney who prosecuted over 55 torture victims.
The whitewash was immediately recognized by the media, lawyers, activists, community leaders and the public, and is being considered a waste of $7 million of taxpayersí money.
Egan, Boyle and the investigators they hired all have strong ties with the Cook County stateís attorneyís office. And it was recently revealed that Egan has nine family members who are cops or ex-cops, with a nephew who worked directly under Burge.
Maybe I expected too much. Did I really expect for the ex-stateís attorney and people with ties to the system to tell the world that the system is corrupt, racist and unjust? Did I expect for them to bring down so many public officials, including Daley and Devine, simply because a bunch of poor Black men were tortured and sent to prison and death row?
What I didnít expect was for them to go far beyond their job description, revealing their true motive and bias by emphatically stating, ìNo one was wrongfully convicted based on a torture confession.î
These ex-stateís attorneys did their best to make four members of the Death Row 10 (Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, Aaron Patterson and myself) look guilty, even through we were pardoned by then-Gov. Ryan on the basis of innocence.
They tried to accomplish this by highlighting every contradiction in our case, regardless of how minor, and by presenting the evidence from a prosecutorís point of viewówithout presenting any of the strong evidence pointing towards our innocence.
Luckily, their bias and attempted whitewash has backfired. It has given to us the kind of momentum and support needed to bring those involved to justice and to give justice to the incarcerated torture victims who are still serving long prison sentences and life without parole.
STANLEY HOWARD lives in Mount Sterling, Illinois.
This article originally appeared in The New Abolitionist, the newsletter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.