Attorney Stan Willis spoke at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 5710 W. Midway Park, Nov. 19, regarding the recent hearing on torture perpetrated against African Americans by officers of the Chicago Police Department. Allegations against police commander Jon Burge and other Area 2 officers have been ongoing since 1972, when the first allegations of torture were made by three African-American men.
A special prosecutor was appointed over three years ago to investigate the charges against Burge. There has still been no indictment and no findings have been reported. Frustrated that the special prosecutor has not brought indictments, community groups petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a hearing on police torture and the failure to prosecute Burge and his men.
During trial with a defendant years ago who alleged police abuse by Area 2 officers, Willis and his legal team started getting anonymous information from police officers verifying the treatment, then they received communications from prisoners claiming it had happened to them, too. They filed a motion to allow this information into the trial, but the federal judge denied it.
Willis gave a brief overview of what was given to the commission:
“We presented a history of what happened in Chicago. We talked about how the movement in Chicago had organized to try to get Burge off the police force. The OPS denied the allegations by the Wilson brothers, as they always do. We forced them to do a new investigation and took months and months. We found out the investigation had been concluded, but it wasn’t made public. We tried to find out why they held on to it for months, until we threatened court action. That report [contained] the first documentation of 54 victims of torture by Jon Burge. Once we had that, we tried to get him off the force. During that time, the present mayor of Chicago was the State’s Attorney and he did nothing. His first deputy at the time is the present State’s Attorney. That is why nothing has happened now. So we made those connections with the public officials who did nothing in the face of mounting evidence not only with OPS, but the trial that we had on behalf of the Wilson brothers. The jury came back with a verdict that there had been a pattern of torture. Amnesty International talked about torture in Chicago, and more recently Gov. Ryan pardoned Aaron Patterson and others because of torture. So everybody knows this has happened and exists in Chicago. It is well documented.
“The critical thing before this commission is that not only did the torture occur, but nobody prosecuted. So not only was the torture a human rights violation, but the failure to prosecute was also a human rights violation. Sometimes we underestimate the power of public opinion, not just in this country but in the world. Because so many people are catching the same kind of treatment that we are all over the world, we need to draw on their support. Paris right now is very similar to what is happening here. Those rebellions come, from what I’ve read, confrontation with police and young African youths.
“We had some great conversations after the hearing was over. One of the commissioners was from Chile. There was an African from Martinique and some representatives from Venezuela. These were all international, and we were in front of a different kind of forum than what I am accustomed to. It was good to be in a forum where people listen and asked questions that actually made sense.”
One of the things Willis is proposing is a legislative package passed through the Illinois General Assembly, to provide reparations to those victims. The following timeline of events was prepared by People’s Law Office, G. Flint Taylor, Jr. and Joey Mogul, attorneys. These are a few examples of documented events:
Jan. 1983?”Leroy Martin becomes commander of Area 2 and serves as Burge’s direct supervisor. During the year that Martin holds the post, numerous victims, including Gregory Banks and Darrell Cannon, are tortured at Area 2 under Burge’s direction and supervision by Sgt. John Byrne, detective Peter Dignan, and other Area 2 detectives.
Summer 1986?”Burge is moved from Area 2 and promoted to commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit. Lt. Phil Cline, now Police Superintendent, replaces Burge.
1988?”Burge is transferred to Area 3 Detective Division and appointed commander. Many of his trusted Area 2 associates, including Sgt. John Byrne, also transfer to Area 3, and allegations of torture follow them.
Jan. 28, 1991?”Amnesty International issues a report calling for an inquiry into allegations of police torture in Chicago. Mayor Daley has “no comment whatsoever.”
Sept. 1991?”A 13-year-old boy, Marcus Wiggins, alleges that he was tortured with electric shock at Area 3. Burge and Byrne allegedly supervised the interrogation.
Nov. 1991?”After delaying for a year, Supt. Leroy Martin approves administrative charges against Burge.
Jan. 1992?”City Lawyers admit that the evidence of Area 2 torture established “an astounding pattern or plan … to torture certain suspects … into confessing to crimes or to condone such activity.”
Feb. 7, 1992?”OPS publicly releases the two torture reports after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.
Feb.-March, 1992?”The City seeks to dismiss Burge.
Feb. 11, 1993?”The Chicago Police Board fires Jon Burge and suspends John Yucaitis for 15 months on charges of torturing and physically abusing Andrew Wilson.
June 2005?”The special prosecutor announces that he has now documented 135 case of torture and abuse under Burge, which is almost three times as many cases as found to amount to “systematic practice of torture” 15 years ago by the OPS. (Source: National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, 1325 S. Wabash, Suite 105, Chicago 60605 – www.naarpr.org)