Alleged Burge torture victim released from prison

March 18, 2011 4:41:43 AM PDT
A man wrongfully convicted of murder walked out of an Illinois prison Thursday. Eric Caine, 46, is a free man after spending nearly 25 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

A Cook County judge ordered Caine's release from the Menard Correctional Center. Caine claimed former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge's detectives tortured him into confessing to the 1986 murders of an elderly couple.

Caine says he learned on a television news report that he was going to be set free. He faces many challenges as he adapts to life outside of prison.

"I can't even describe it. This is the first day of my new life. It is amazing," Caine said Thursday.

Caine says he learned on a television news report that he was going to be set free.

Eric Caine was 21 when he was convicted of taking part in a double murder in Chicago. He had insisted over the years that he was beaten into a false confession and that officers under the command of Jon Burge were responsible.

Freed by a judge's order, Caine walked out of Menard Correctional around noon on Thursday. His long-term desire is to be a minister. His immediate plan is to be unburdened by bitterness.

"From the days, hours arrested and from the time I was sentenced, I had promised myself that I would not allow this experience and this situation to turn me for the worse," said Caine.

Caine met girlfriend Sara Bush six years ago. He counseled her grandson in prison. He says they plan to marry soon. But as far as the rest of his plans, he's still working on it.

Those who've been there say he has a tough road ahead.

"He's going to find the skills he had don't matter anymore. He's going to find very little opportunity," said Diane Williams, Safer Foundation.

Williams is the CEO of the Safer Foundation, which for the last 40-years has helped ex-inmates readjust and find work, a daunting challenge given today's economy and rapid changes in technology.

"The world changed so much for me that I basically had to crawl, and I'm still crawling," said Alton Logan.

Logan did 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He was freed nearly three years ago amidst considerable fanfare. But he has been unable to find a job.

Everyday Logan searches the computer. He's filled out 200-300 job applications for general labor and maintenance work. And, even though he has a certificate of innocence from the state, some prospective employees still find a red flag in his past.

"I've had that come up," said Logan. "They still go back to something that happened 37 years ago -- even though I'm innocent."

Safer has had success stories, last year finding 2,700 jobs for ex-inmates, but there were 10,000 looking for help.

"When the market improves we'll be better able to place people faster than we can place them today," said Williams. "They have to be patient, and that's not always an easy thing to do when you have no income."

Logan is attending college-level construction management classes four nights a week. He's not giving up.

"My family has never been one to give up hope, and I'm not gonna be the first," Logan said.

Apart from his own determination, one thing that Alton Logan has going for him is the support and love of family and friends -- because the readjustment time, especially when you can't find a job, is quite difficult.

Eric Caine has family and friends who have worked for this day and have pledged to help a man who enters a world quite different than the one he left over 24 years ago.

Caine's release comes a day after Burge reported to a federal prison in North Carolina for lying under oath. The timing of Caine's release is most likely a coincidence.