Criminal Justice

Class Action Seeks Hearings for 'Forgotten' Chicago Police Torture Victims

In what is being billed as a first-of-its-kind filing in Cook County, two legal clinics supported by big-name members of the legal community are pursuing a criminal court class action seeking hearings for all imprisoned individuals with “credible claims” of having been tortured into confessing to murder by Chicago police.

The petition, by Northwestern University’s Roderick MacArthur Justice Center and the People’s Law Office, which specializes in civil rights cases, was filed Tuesday before Presiding Judge Paul Biebel of Cook County Criminal Court, the Chicago Tribune reports. The Chicago Sun-Times also has a story.

The petition asks the court to grant hearings for what lawyers for the plaintiffs described in a news conference today as a “forgotten” group of black men tortured in the 1970s and 1980s by former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge or his officers. Although Burge never faced criminal charges over the claimed torture, he was fired in 1993 for mistreating a suspect and eventually convicted of perjury concerning his testimony in a civil case. Meanwhile, the city has agreed to settlements with some exonerated individuals.

Among those who joined in a supporting friend-of-the-court brief filed with today’s petition were former state governor James R. Thompson and former U.S. Attorneys Thomas Sullivan and Dan Webb, the Sun-Times reports.

“None of these men has ever had a full or fair hearing,” said Northwestern’s Locke Bowman of the prisoners the petition seeks to help, during a news conference at law school. “It is time, it is past time, to have closure on the Burge scandal.”

Partner Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office said it is an “embarrassment” that Cook County prosecutors have resisted the idea of holding such hearings, the Tribune reported.

Representatives of the state’s attorney’s office could not immediately be reached by the newspaper for comment.

Related coverage: “Former Chicago Police Lt. Accused of Suspect Torture Is Convicted of Perjury and Obstruction” “Ex-Chicago Police Commander Accused of Torturing Suspects Gets 4.5 Years for Perjury” “AG of Ill. Sues Over Pension Board’s OK of Benefits to Disgraced Police Commander” “Chicago Committee OKs $5.375M Police Torture Case Settlement; Ex-Mayor Daley May Not Have to Testify”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.