Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Tribune’
Ex-Chicago police detective charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, after allegedly lying about torture of suspects
One of the city’s most persistent and troubling scandals reaches federal court Thursday when jury selection begins in the trial of Jon Burge, the former Chicago police detective accused of overseeing the torture of suspects.
For nearly two decades, Burge and his detectives allegedly sent dozens of men to prison on the basis of coerced confessions, deepening bitterness between police and minorities and helping inspire former Gov. George Ryan to reject capital punishment and empty the state’s death row.
But Burge, now 62, living on a police pension and reportedly in poor health, will not be tried for any act of torture. While federal prosecutors say they will prove that he and his detectives abused suspects, the statute of limitations expired long ago. Instead, Burge stands accused of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying in 2003 when he denied under oath he knew of or participated in abuse of suspects.
The fact that Burge is facing any kind of criminal charge is seen by some as a long-overdue opportunity for vindication.
“Jon Burge standing trial means a lot to the African-American community, and it means a lot to me, that finally some justice will come out of this ordeal of torture,” said Mark Clements, 45, an alleged victim of Burge’s officers who was released from prison in August after 28 years behind bars.
But Ronald Kitchen, 51, another alleged victim who was freed in July after 21 years in prison, isn’t satisfied.
“Who wouldn’t want to see him put in the same cage he put us in?” Kitchen said. “But unless he gets up on the stand and admits what he did, there’s no justice in it for me.”
Burge is expected to attend Thursday’s session in Judge Joan Lefkow’s courtroom, where potential jurors will be given a questionnaire. On May 24, they will return for the completion of jury selection.
Burge’s attorney, Richard Beuke, declined to allow his client to be interviewed by the Tribune but said the former detective will “vehemently deny all these allegations.”
“He is looking forward to an opportunity to finally face these people in court with a jury that will hopefully understand the law and the evidence and do their best to give him a fair trial in light of all the negative publicity that plaintiff’s lawyers and politicians have feasted upon at his expense,” Beuke said. “We want to make sure that this trial is tried in the courtroom.”