Jon Burge guilty in cop torture trial

July 21, 2010 11:57:44 AM PDT
Former Chicago police lieutenant Jon Burge has been found guilty of lying about the torture of suspects.He was convicted by a jury on Monday afternoon on all three charges of federal perjury and obstruction of justice. He did not react as the verdicts were read.

Jurors deliberated for three days in the case before determining Burge lied about the torture of suspects during the 1970s and 1980s on sworn documents in 2003. In those documents, Burge said he did not torture suspects nor did he know of torture at Area 2 police headquarters. He was fired from the CPD in 1993 over allegations that he mistreated a suspect. He was not charged with torture because of the statute of limitations.

Burge maintained his innocence and testified during his trial. He denied ever suffocating, shocking or beating witnesses and cried while on the stand. The first witness called in the first day of testimony on May 26 was Anthony Holmes, now 63, who testified that in 1973 John Burge arrested him for a murder he did not commit . Three other men were also called to testify. Other alleged victims attended the trial.

Mark Clements spent nearly 30 years in jail for murders he did not commit. He says he was just a teenager when Burge coerced his confession.

"I sat in a prison cell and I prayed for this day," said Clements, alleged torture victim. "My daughter is 29 years old. I missed all those years sitting in those prison cells for a crime I did not commit. I do not feel sorry for Jon Burge...today's verdict is a victory for every poor person. I was 16 years old. "

For decades, dozens of suspects claimed Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder. Four men were released from death row in 2003 by former Ill. governor George Ryan on account of Burge's tortured and coerced confessions. The allegations of torture led to Ryan's moratorium on death row sentences, which still stands

In 2006, credible claims of abuse were found during an investigation, but the torture cases had reached the statute of limitations. In 2008, Burge was indicted on the perjury charges.

"We're very gratified that after a long delay, justice was achieved today with the verdict...The jury spoke loudly and clearly," said Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney. "It's sad it took till 2010 to actually be proven in a court of law. But as sad as that is, it's important that it happened."

"He was disappointed. But...he's a tough man. He knows the fight is not over so we'll continue," said Rick Beuke, Burge's attorney.

On Monday night, jurors spoke about the lies and the actions that led to their verdict.

"We all would have liked to have rendered a different verdict. It would have been nice if these sorts of things never actually occurred. But the fact of the matter is they did," said John Strauss, jury foreman.

"How could you hurt somebody. You shouldn't torture people like that. And just, it was shocking to hear what they did," said Rachel Thielmann, juror.

An impromptu rally erupted outside the federal building after the verdict was read.

"The people of Chicago have spoken. They say they believe what we were saying for many years," said Ronald Kitchen.

"A measure of justice has been rendered today," said Jesse Jackson, president and founder, Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

The People's Law Office has represented more than 20 men who allege abuse by Burge. The office's principal attorney, Flint Taylor, hopes the verdict will help those still incarcerated to get new hearings and those wrongly convicted to be compensated.

Judge Joan Lefkow will sentence Burge November 5. He could be sentenced to as much as 45 years in prison.


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