After many years and many more calls for justice, former Chicago police commander Jon Burge was found guilty on Monday, June 28, 2010, of lying about torture. Burge was found guilty on all counts of the indictment that charged him with perjury and obstruction of justice.
Over the years, Austin Weekly News has written many stories about the ongoing legal saga of Burge who was accused of torturing suspects in the 1970s and ’80s. Attorneys like Stan Willis and Larry Kennon showed numerous documents to AWN, conducted meetings and even held a “silent protest march” on Sept. 15, 2006 in the Chicago Loop. Burge was convicted of lying in a 2003 civil lawsuit about his use or knowledge of torture of criminal suspects.
In one of the first AWN articles, which ran in November 2005, Atty. Stan Willis spoke at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 5710 W. Midway Park and outlined the torture allegations that had been ongoing since 1972. During this time, Willis explained that a special prosecutor had been appointed and no indictment or findings had been reported. As a result, community groups became frustrated and petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a hearing. Willis and his legal team started getting anonymous information from police officers that verified the claims of mistreatment of prisoners.
Willis and Kennon worked with People’s Law Office attorneys G. Flint Taylor and Joey Mogul. Some examples of victim claims they uncovered:
May 30, 1973
Anthony “Satan” Jones said he was tortured by electric shock and suffocation with a plastic bag by Burge and his men while in custody at Area 2
Numerous African-American arrestees alleged they were tortured with electric shock and suffocation at Area 2 by Burge and his men to obtain confessions.
Feb. 5, 1982
Melvin Jones said he was tortured with electric shock.
Feb. 14, 1982
Andrew Wilson was arrested for the murder of policemen and was brought to Area 2 where he was allegedly repeatedly tortured with electric shock to the genitals, suffocation and burning on a hot radiator by Burge and policemen under his supervision.
Feb. 17, 1982
Andrew Wilson was examined by Dr. John Raba, medical director at Cermak Health Services, who sent a letter to Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek, detailing Wilson’s allegations and injuries, and requested an investigation. Wilson died in 2007.
Jan. 23, 1983
Former Mayor Harold Washington appointed Leroy Martin Commander of Area 2 to serve as Burge’s director supervisor. During the year that Martin held the post, numerous victims, including Gregory Banks and Darrell Cannon said they were tortured at Area 2 under Burge’s direction.
Feb. 11, 1993
The Chicago Police Board fired Burge on charges of torturing and physically abusing Andrew Wilson.
In response to Monday’s conviction, Kennon said: “This is a measure of justice that we’ve gotten because justice delayed is usually justice denied. But we want to commend the jury for standing up for justice. This is a latter-day victory but does not begin to cover the degree of injustice to our community that was perpetrated by the Burge crew.
“We’re happy for the first step, and we hope the federal prosecutor is now locked into it and [will] prosecute the whole crew. This conviction has ended the unbroken streak of victories by white policemen who have beaten black victims. This should send a signal that maybe they could be convicted of their vicious actions. Burge’s crew should all now be indicted. It’s been established that the denial of this torture is untrue, and therefore the truth is that they are all a part of torturing black victims. Some newspapers are saying that the victims were ‘mostly’ black, but in fact there were no white victims. We hope the sentencing will be strong enough to justify the conviction.
“The organization Black People Against Torture have won a victory, a group that was organized because of Burge by attorney Stan Willis, former police officer Patricia Hill and myself.”