Constitutional Law

Special prosecutor to probe more decades-old claims by jailed men of Chicago police torture

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Finding that the Chicago prosecutor’s office has a conflict of interest, the top criminal judge in Cook County, Ill., said on Thursday that he will appoint a special prosecutor to review the cases of at least five jailed men, and perhaps dozens of others, who say they were tortured into confessing years ago on the watch of a former city police supervisor.

Cmdr. Jon Burge is currently serving a federal prison term for perjury during his testimony in a civil case about police torture. He has never been criminally charged concerning the alleged torture, but there is widespread acknowledgement that credible claims have been made by a group of black men who allege they were mistreated by Burge and his officers during the 1970s and 1980s. The city of Chicago has paid substantial settlements in several cases.

Observers were not surprised by the Thursday ruling by Criminal Courts Presiding Judge Paul Biebel Jr. that a conflict of interest on the part of the Cook County state’s attorney required a special prosecutor, according to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Biebel appointed a retired judge in 2009 in a similar case to act as a special prosecutor. However, a state law that has since taken effect now requires that efforts be made to look for a special prosecutor who will do the job at no charge before appointing a paid special prosecutor. Hence, Biebel plans to check first with prosecutors in other jurisdictions before again giving the job to the retired judge, if need be.

The Chicago Reader, which has been at the forefront of covering issues related to Burge, provides a page of links to its articles over the years.

See also: (2012): “Class Action Seeks Hearings for ‘Forgotten’ Chicago Police Torture Victims”

Chicago Reader (2005): “Tools of Torture”

Chicago Reader (2010): “Conroy on Burge”

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