Judge grants new trial to Chicago man

May 22, 2009 2:56:19 PM PDT
After 18 years in prison Cortez Brown has been granted a new trial. Brown claims he was tortured by Chicago police, forcing him to confess to a murder he didn't commit.Brown was characterized as a cold-hearted street gang enforcer back in 1992. The judge who sentenced him to death called him a "killing machine" and said he could find no reason to spare his life. But now, Cortez Brown, who has decided to go by his given name, Victor Safforld, will have a new trial, for it is yet another case linked to the name John Burge.

Half of his 38 years have been spent in prison, much of it on death row, until George Ryan's blanket clemency. But Cortez Brown, his family, lawyers, and supporters, have long argued that he is in prison only because he was tortured by police into a false confession.

Inmate Cortez Brown has returned to using his given name, Victor Safforld. His contention remains unchanged.

"We believe very firmly that Victor Safforld has spent 19 years in prison unjustly," said Locke Bowman, McArthur Justice Center.

After hearing this week from Safforld (Brown), Circuit Judge Clayton Crane Friday morning granted the convicted killer a new trial. The judge said Safforld was not a good witness on his own behalf, but something else weighed more heavily. The three now-retired Chicago police detectives who worked the case years ago all plead the fifth when they took the stand. They all worked under disgraced police commander John Burge.

The judge said Friday, "I have a more complete history of the behavior of these detectives. That evidence is staggering. That evidence is damning."

"I think it had a major impact, because he could draw an inference, which he did, that in fact if they testified truthfully, they would have had to admit there was abuse and torture in that room," said Flint Taylor, Safforld attorney.

So the man who was called a killing machine by the judge who originally sentenced him will be a new trial, and his family is optimistic that the man who once sat on death row will win an acquittal.

"I stay with a positive attitude because my daddy always stays with a positive attitude no matter what so I'm just ," said Victoria Safforld, daughter.

"We are so happy, We're grateful that the judge went through all the evidence, and he's one step closer to home-- which is what we've been asking all these years," said Elaina Safforld, sister.

The Illinois attorney general's office handled the prosecutor's interest in the case and said it respects the judge's decision, but beyond that, no comment. When this goes back to trial it's a case based largely on a confession, and if that's tainted, it means Mr. Safforld's chances are enhanced.


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