Constitutional Law

Ill. Judge OKs New Murder Trial for Cortez Brown After 3 Cops Take Fifth

After three current and former Chicago police detectives took the Fifth rather than testify in a post-conviction case concerning their alleged abuse of a capital murder suspect nearly 20 years ago, an Illinois judge has ordered a new trial for Cortez Brown.

Brown, 38, who admittedly was a member of the Gangster Disciples, was convicted in two 1990 gang-related murders based on what he said were false confessions extracted from him by police beatings. He clenched his fists and supporters cheered in the courtroom today as Cook County Circuit Judge Clayton Crane announced his decision to reverse Brown’s conviction and grant him a new trial, according to reports by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Brown was sentenced to death before former state Gov. George Ryan commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

“This is a wonderful victory, not only for [Brown], but for the entire human rights movement and the entire movement against police torture in this city,” attorney Flint Taylor, who represents Brown, tells the Sun-Times.

Earlier this month, a judge in Florida, where former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge now lives, said he was not required to attend the Chicago hearing, since he was likely to take the Fifth as well. Burge is facing trial on perjury charges in federal court in Chicago. However, Burge commented briefly in that hearing, and possibly may have waived his Fifth Amendment rights by doing so, reports WLS.

“My personal feeling is that this is only harassment on Mr. Taylor’s part, which has been going on and on and on for years,” said Burge, who was not then represented by a lawyer, at the Florida hearing. “I don’t know that I could add to this case. I would be more than happy to testify in anything that I could. But regretfully, due to the fact that I have these other charges … pending, that will not allow me to testify.”

It was not immediately clear whether Brown will be retried, and he remained in the Cook County Jail at last report.

Brown has changed his name to Victor Safforld, notes the Tribune, which uses his new name in recent coverage; other media reports refer to him as Brown.

Additional coverage:

Chicago Tribune: “Burge won’t testify in hearing on new trial”

Campaign to End the Death Penalty: “Justice for Cortez Brown: Tortured, Innocent, and Wrongfully Convicted”

Final Call: “Farrakhan: Give justice to victims of police torture”

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