Chicago Cop Who Denied Torture Is Indicted
On television and in the movies, when a police detective wants a killer to confess, he whacks the killer upside the head and the killer obliges with a written admission of guilt. In real life, coerced confessions are prohibited by the Constitution. That doesn't stop the occasional officer from using TV tactics to get what he wants.
Jon Burge is a former Chicago police lieutenant whose interrogation tactics (primarily directed toward black suspects) included beatings, electric shocks, and mock Russian roulette. The torture of suspects in which he and his colleagues engaged resulted in civil rights suits against Chicago and a federal investigation.
Burge lied to the federal investigators and he lied to lawyers who questioned him with regard to the civil rights suits, consistently denying any knowledge of, or involvement in, the abuse of suspects. Today an indictment of Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice with regard to those lies was unsealed. Burge was arrested before dawn this morning in his Florida home. [more ...]
Too many prosecutors automatically stand up for the police (after all, they play on the same "team") while remaining willfully ignorant of police misconduct. Credit Patrick Fitzgerald for having the integrity to pursue this prosecution. He understands that people who want to make the criminal justice system work within the confines of the law are all part of the same team.
"There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station," U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement. "There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits. No person is above the law and no person -- even a suspected murderer -- is beneath its protection."
The widespread use of fabricated and tortured confessions was a key factor in George Ryan's decision to commute the death sentences of Illinois' death row inmates in 2003. Perhaps the indictment of Burge will send a message that real cops can't take the shortcuts that are standard practice for TV cops. Dirty Harry might be fun to watch on the movie screen, but in real life he deserves to lose his badge.
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