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Special Prosecutor Named in Police Torture Cases

Final Call.com, News Report, Ashahed M. Muhammad Posted: Apr 27, 2009

A special prosecutor has been named to take over and review decades old allegations of torture under the infamous former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

Stuart Nudelman, a former judge and public defender was assigned on Apr. 7 to prosecute several cases of police torture at the request of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Some community activists believe Atty. Madigan is passing the buck for political expediency citing widespread speculation that she is interested in running for Illinois governor.

If she had done her job in the first place and initiated hearings for all police torture victims to present evidence of torture, we wouldn't have needed a special prosecutor in the first place, said Julien Ball, Chicago organizer for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Mr. Ball said despite her recent actions, there are still cases of torture under her jurisdiction. Over the years, there have been several delegations who have met with representatives of Atty. Madigan and each time, they were told that the cases were being worked on and that each case is different.

To us, each case is not different, said Mr. Ball. All of these convictions came as a result of confessions that were electro-shocked, suffocated and beaten out of people. In all those cases, she has the responsibility to initiate hearings.

Her (Madigan's) motivation is real clear, said Rev. Larry Turpin, an activist, Presbyterian minister, and pastor of the United Church of Hyde Park in Chicago. She's always had close ties to the law enforcement community and the prosecutors and she needs those people to run for governor. She wants to deal with these cases without having to upset anybody, Rev. Turpin added.

According to sworn testimonies and numerous reports, former Area 2 Commander Jon Burge led a group of rogue officers that used cattle prods to electric shock the genitals of suspects, handcuffed suspects to hot radiators and beat suspects to coerce confessions and to obtain information during investigations. More than 20 Black men remain in prison, saying they are innocent and claiming they only confessed to crimes because of the torture.

One such torture victim is Darrell Cannon, who spent more than 23 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Mr. Cannon said he remembers vividly the night of November 2, 1983, when he was taken to a remote location by detectives who tortured him using methods such as electric shock and mock execution, while shouting racial slurs. Those detectives were under the supervision of Cmdr. Burge.

I remember it as if it just happened yesterday, Mr. Cannon told The Final Call.

I'm not one of those saying that I just want to put it out of my mind' or I just want to move on' or I don't have any hatred or vindictiveness.' I'm not one of them! I can't stand the air that those cops breathe. I hate every day that they are above ground, said Mr. Cannon.

Since he was freed on April 30, 2007, Mr. Cannon has used his experience to join with other activists to bring attention to the plight of those still languishing in prison resulting from confessions extracted using torture, fabricated evidence and testimony of officers who repeatedly lied under oath. He is also involved in a civil suit against Burge.

Justice has not prevailed for all the wrong that they have done to me. I am very vindictive and I am using it in the proper manner and I haven't forgotten anything they have done to me, Mr. Cannon said.

A 2007 University of Chicago report found widespread tolerance for rogue police officers in predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods. Rev. Turpin said he believes corruption found in the Chicago Police Department has yet to be fully eradicated. He also said Americans don't need to look to Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib for human rights abuses because there are some taking place here in prisons across the U.S.

They never cleaned up after Jon Burge and I believe it (has) stayed inside of the department. I think there are good cops, but I don't think the bad cops ever got cleaned up and I don't think that culture ever got stopped like it should have.
Mr. Burge was arrested in October 2008, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He subsequently posted $250,000 bail and was freed. He is currently living in Florida, and has never admitted any wrongdoing. Though fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993, he still receives a pension and the city is paying Mr. Burge's legal bills.

Northwestern University School of Law Professor Lock Bowman wrote in an e-mailed reply to questions presented by The Final Call that Mr. Burge is a defendant in a civil case brought by Darrell Cannon and damages are being sought against him in that case. Prof. Bowman said Mr. Burge could be named in new suits filed by persons who will be released from prison, however, whether Mr. Burge has the financial resources to pay would be another issue.

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