Justice for police torture victims

February 26, 2009

CHICAGO--About 30 people picketed in front of Cook County Courthouse on February 20 calling for new trials for victims of police torture under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

Speakers at the rally included Darrell Cannon and Anthony Holmes, who collectively spent 56 years behind bars based on confessions that were tortured out of them. Between 1973 and 1991, more than 100 African American men faced electroshock, suffocation, severe beatings and mock executions at the hands of Burge's detectives.

The rally was initiated by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and featured members of DePaul Students Against the Death Penalty, Northside Action for Justice Copwatch, the International Socialist Organization, 8th Day Center for Justice, Tamms Year Ten and others.

Immediately following the protest, prosecutors working for Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued a motion to transfer five of the Burge torture cases to the jurisdiction of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. Protesters packed the courtroom, where defense and civil rights attorneys argued against Madigan's office.

Madigan was appointed to oversee cases of Chicago police torture victims in 2003 when Judge Paul Biebel ruled that then-State's Attorney Richard Devine had a conflict of interest in the cases because he had represented Burge in a civil suit while in private practice.

Madigan now claims that because Devine is no longer in office, the State's Attorney's office no longer has a conflict of interest. But protesters accused her of passing the buck, arguing that if Madigan can ask a judge to remove her from the cases, she can just as easily ask him to grant evidentiary hearings for the dozens of torture victims still behind bars--something she should have done long ago.

Burge was finally indicted last fall on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, and news reports indicate that indictments of other officers may come soon.

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