You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
Pressure mounts on Burge
Chicago cop saw suspects tortured

By Alice Kim | December 3, 2004 | Page 2

FOR THE first time, a Chicago police officer has come forward to say publicly that he witnessed other cops torturing a suspect at Area 2 police headquarters on the city's South Side.

William Parker, a 32-year veteran of the department who is now retired, told journalist Carol Marin of NBC News that he saw notorious former Commander Jon Burge torturing a Black suspect.

"What happened was I heard someone cry out," Parker told Marin. "I had never heard a human scream and cry out that way before. The door was shut, but I just barged on in. Once inside, I saw directly before me on the floor with his pants open and down, a Black male subject. Standing next to him [was Burge]."

For at least two decades beginning in the early 1970s, Burge and his detectives systematically tortured African American men at Area 2 and 3 police stations, using electric shock, Russian roulette, suffocation with plastic bags and beatings to extract confessions. Burge was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1992 when an in-house investigation determined that he had tortured Andrew Wilson while in police custody. Burge retired to Florida and has continued to receive a full pension from the city of Chicago.

In April 2002, activists finally won their demand for a special prosecutor to investigate claims of police torture by Burge and his underlings. Then, in January 2003, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan pardoned four of Burge's victims--death row prisoners who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death largely on the basis of "confessions" forced out of them by Burge.

In addition to Parker, four other officers have now given depositions implicating Burge, according to Marin. Doris Byrd, another retired officer, said that she heard screaming and hollering, and saw a suspect attached to a steaming radiator.

As news of his torture ring is exposed, Burge has remained silent. In September, when Burge was ordered to return to Chicago to answer questions in connection with two federal civil suits against him, he invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to nearly every question he was asked.

Now, Burge is trying to silence the attorneys who are fighting to get justice for his victims. His lawyers recently filed a petition in the courts to keep attorneys from publicly releasing depositions from 13 current or former Chicago police officers who are witnesses in the lawsuits.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown recently ruled in favor of Burge's petition. She is holding off from ruling if she will also block the lawyers from publicly commenting on the depositions. Burge's attorney, James Sotos, also asked Brown to impose monetary sanctions against an attorney for former death row prisoner Madison Hobley for releasing files to the media.

Clearly, Burge and his supporters in the city political machine are feeling the pressure. The special prosecutor's office has said that it is close to completing its investigation. A fair investigation should lead to long-awaited indictments of Burge and his officers. Activists will need to keep up the fight to expose Chicago police torture as we demand Burge's prosecution--and justice for his victims.

Home page | Back to the top