Since the release of the long-awaited Jon Burge report on July 19, many lawyers, clergy and community residents have questioned the contents, the $7.3 million cost and the four-year length of the investigation.
Last Thursday, a community meeting was held at Inner Cities Studies (700 E. Oakwood) to discuss the report. The Burge torture case lists some 192 African-American men who were tortured over a 20-year period by former commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command. Torture techniques included electrical shocking to genitals, near-suffocations with plastic bags, cattle-prodding and beatings about the body with telephone books and rubber hoses.
Despite the mountain of evidence, a report from the U.N. Committee Against Torture, defense lawyers and ordinary citizens as petitioners, the release of the Burge Report concluded that it is now too late to seek justice from those who were victimized.
Presiding over the community meeting were attorneys Larry Kennon, Stan Willis, Flint Taylor and Locke Bowman. Kennon showed everyone the report and stated, “This is the most sanitized report you’ve ever seen or heard about. I brought the report so you could see there are 292 pages, plus a list that covers approximately 1400 other pages. There was no comprehensive finding by special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle of torture. Some of you may know when Egan was first appointed, I objected because I knew Egan. Egan, Boyle, Devine and Daley are all part of the Democratic system-the ‘old boy’ system-which means I didn’t believe Egan would be competent to judge a determination against Mayor Daley who was intricately involve in the situation from the beginning. I made that known and wrote a letter to Judge Paul Beibel who made the decision after some very great legal work by Locke Bowman and the petitioners to get a special prosecutor.”
Holding the report up, Kennon went on the state “this is $7 million. They got paid $7 million to go through four years and two months, with one thing we knew in the beginning. The report is broken down into sections, it starts off with an introduction and in the introduction there are what you call disclaimers. Egan tells all the reasons why he cannot find the particular individuals liable for or guilty of torture.”
In order to find anything against anyone who is a defendant, Kennon said, Egan claimed he would have to verify the credibility of the accusers, then goes through the document primarily attacking the persons who are the accusers. “In fact,” Kennon adds, “he states he cannot bring an action if the accusers don’t have credibility. At the end of his introduction [Egan] does give a list of all of the officers he talked to. In his conclusion, he judges there were three cases that he believe justified seeking indictments.”
Some other topics of discussion included reparations for torture victims, stopping the Olympics effort, mass demonstrations at the U.S. Attorney’s office, organize campaign to deny retention of judges involved in torture cases, and continuing efforts to get the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to do a site visit in Chicago.
“The reason for reparations,” said Stan Willis, “is because [it’s] much broader than seeking a remedy in the court. The other problem remedy in the court has a statute of limitations. Reparations typically come from a legislative body. I’ve been proposing (and some people disagree) that it goes to the state legislature. Some people say we should go to the city. The reason I seek the state is because the state has broader authority. Reparations (it’s not all about money) should include all of the things that will make these men whole again. It should include emotional repair, vocational repair-we’ve suggested having a center just for the torture victims. When people are tortured, they are not the only victims. It includes their children, mothers, wives-a whole community has been victimized. I got a letter from Rep. Connie Howard and lobbyist Coye Pugh about this reparation.”
The audience suggested working on various committees and continuing the fight to bring Burge and others to justice regardless to the reports’ determination that the statute of limitations has run out.
The standing-room-only crowd was also addressed by Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), Flint Taylor, Rev. Al Sampson, Locke Bowman, Pat Hill and many community activists. More community strategy meetings are planned.