Accountability for US torture is occurring at last. In Chicago, the decades-long conspiracy of silence about police torture is finally coming to an end with the recent conviction for perjury of police torturer Jon Burge. Now civil suits are seeking the truth about the involvement of higher officials, including potentially the current mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley.
Lawmakers in Congress are responding to the Chicago case by introducing bills to make torture by police a federal crime. If so, the irony that torture by police is banned, while authorizing torture by the President goes uninvestigated and “legalizing” torture by the Office of Legal Counsel’s torture lawyers is condoned by Obama’s “Justice” Department.
The Obama administration has argued for near total immunity for those who authorized and conducted torture, except possibly those who went beyond their authorized level of torture. For the President firmly believes that we are a nation of men and women and not of laws. Those who get to decided about torture simply cannot be held accountable.
Perhaps Chicago will show Obama the essential nature of accountability for official horrors. Or, perhaps, the message for Jon Burge is that he simply wasn’t enough of a big shot to get away with it.
Freed inmate names Burge, Daley in new torture suit
By Matthew Walberg
A man who was sentenced to death and spent more than 21 years in prison for a quintuple murder is suing former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and three of his officers for torturing him into giving a false confession.
Burge was convicted earlier this week of perjury in lying about the torture of criminal suspects in the 1970s and 80s in connection with another civil lawsuit.
Ronald Kitchen’s federal lawsuit also names as defendants a number of officials who Kitchen contended knew what Burge was doing, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was Cook County state’s attorney for part of the time a jury determined that police were torturing suspects. The suit alleged Daley’s office concealed evidence that criminal suspects were being beaten.
Other defendants include former police superintendents Terry Hillard and Leroy Martin.
Kitchen, wearing a brown shirt, jeans and brown dress shoes, said at a news conference this morning that he wasn’t bringing suit for the possible money but to make it known the abuse he suffered.
“Let it be known that’s it’s not about the money. It’s about making those who were supervising and overseeing the city of Chicago take notice,” said Kitchen, who spent 21 years in prison, 13 of them on death row.
“It’s hard to sit up here and talk about the 21 years stolen from me,” he added.
Kitchen said during that period of time that he was wrongfully imprisoned, his brother and other relatives died, and his mother, who was his greatest champion, came down with dementia and does not even understand that he is now a free man.
“She was my sole fighter,” Kitchen said. “When I go down to Alabama to see my mother, she don’t even know I’m there. That’s another blow.”
Kitchen said he also missed out on his son’s childhood.
“I done lost 21 years of my son’s life. I don’t get that back,” Kitchen said.
He said Burge’s conviction still hasn’t sunk in and he’s still trying to adjust to freedom.
“It’s still unreal to me. Not just him being convicted, but me being free. I’m in a bubble. I’m still trying to sort things out.”
The suit alleges that Kitchen was beaten, deprived of sleep and food and subjected to racial slurs over the course of 16 hours to induce his confession to the 1988 slayings of two women and three children in a South Side bungalow.
At one point, the suit alleges, when Kitchen asked to telephone a lawyer, Detective Thomas Byron, one of the officers named as a defendant, took an unattached telephone receiver, hit Kitchen on the side of the head with it and handed it to him before leaving the room.
The suit also says Kitchen was hit in his genitals with a blackjack and to his head with a telephone book.
The suit asserts that Kitchen was arrested on the basis of a false jailhouse tip from an inmate who was looking to make a better deal for himself. It also says police ignored evidence that pointed to the possibility that the victims had been murdered by a family member.
The suit names a host of police and prosecutors, but focuses primarily on Mayor Daley who was the Cook County state’s attorney who sought the death penalty for Kitchen.
Kitchen’s attorneys Locke Bowman and Flint Taylor, alleged that Daley had ample information that abuse was occurring at Area 2 police headquarters prior to Kitchen’s arrest but did nothing to intervene or prosecute police, and later did nothing as Chicago’s mayor to discipline the accused officers.
“If he did any of those things, Ronald Kitchen would not have been tortured,” Taylor said.
A spokeswoman for the city’s law department did not respond to allegations about Daley’s tenure as state’s attorney, but pointed out that Burge lost his job after Daley became mayor.
“We have not seen this lawsuit yet so we cannot comment on the specific allegations,” said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department “However, to the extent that there are any claims against Mayor Daley, it is important to note that Jon Burge was an employee in good standing at the Chicago Police Department under previous mayoral administrations, and was fired during Mayor Daley’s tenure. We strongly dispute any allegation that the Mayor was involved in a conspiracy.”
Bowman and Taylor also challenged Daley to follow a city ordinance that bans the city from paying the legal fees of employees convicted of crimes, noting that Burge, who was convicted in federal court on Monday, was represented this morning by his city-hired attorney in an ongoing lawsuit against him by another alleged victim, Darrell Cannon. He has accused detectives under Burge’s command of staging a mock execution and shocking him in the genitals with a cattle prod to coerce his confession to a 1983 murder.
Kitchen recently was exonerated and granted a certificate of innocence–similar to a pardon–after the Illinois attorney general’s office declined to retry him because his confession had been coerced.
Kitchen said TV show personality Dr. Phil had him on his show and arranged for his hiring though Goodwill Industries International, Inc., a workforce development group. But prior to that, despite the fact that Kitchen was granted the innocence certificate, he found it difficult to get work because of the fact that he had once been convicted.
July 2nd, 2010