Prisoners Freed From Sentences Based on Torture-Induced Confession

Torture extorts false confessions, a fact that was apparently irrelevant to interrogators who tortured detainees suspected of terrorism. The unreliability of torture-induced confessions was equally irrelevant to former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. In a series of posts dating back to 2003, TalkLeft followed the developing evidence of Burge's aggressive interrogation practices to this conclusion:

Burge and the detectives under his command found unchecked power to torture suspects, primarily black, on the south side of Chicago.

After the evidence of Burge's reliance on torture became too overwhelming to ignore, more than twenty cases that hinged on confessions given to Burge or his detectives were reviewed by the state attorney general's office. Yesterday, as a result of that review, Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves were freed from prison after serving 21 years for multiple murders. The strongest evidence against them was Kitchen's torture-induced confession. [more ...]

Kitchen says Burge's detectives coerced a false confession by hitting him in the head with a telephone, punching him in the face, kicking him, and striking him in the groin. In addition to Kitchen's confession, prosecutors (one of whom is now a judge) based their case on the testimony of an inmate witness who was given a sentence reduction in exchange for his testimony -- an exculpatory fact that they withheld from the defense. The witness claimed that Kitchen confessed to him during two telephone calls, but the attorney general's review of the evidence found that no such calls were made.

Acknowledging that they had no reliable evidence of guilt, prosecutors yesterday reopened the cases against Kitchen and Reeves and dismissed the charges. Meanwhile, Burge awaits trial on federal charges that he lied under oath in a lawsuit concerning his abuse of suspects.

< Troy Davis: 'The Most Compelling Case of Innocence in Decades' | Judge Vacates Ward Churchill Jury Verdict, Gives Him Nothing >
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    one bad apple (2.00 / 1) (#3)
    by diogenes on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 11:30:24 AM EST
    OK, Burge is a bad apple.
    For better or for worse, the terrorist torturers do not do so to get dependable evidence which would be admissible in a court of law but to get leads about future terror; those leads are then investigated, and it doesn't matter so much if half of the information is ultimately proven to be false.
    People can oppose all torture on its merits but terrorist torture and criminal evidence torture are totally different things.  

    Say what? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by kdog on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 11:56:14 AM EST
    but terrorist torture and criminal evidence torture are totally different things.

    Coulda fooled me...giving someone in custody the business is giving someone in custody the business...it doesn't inflict less pain on the tortured, I'll guarantee you that.  


    diogenese, torturing (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 12:03:12 PM EST
    anyone will get you any answer to make the torture stop. Other investigatory methods work better. why use a flawed and undependable method?

    Does it make you feel better? by that I mean do you think you are leaving nothing off of the table?

    Here are a few methods from the past-- driving a hatpin under fingernails, throwing a person out of a helicopter, cutting off digits.

    this is akin to witchcraft trials, in my opinion. You haven't even defined 'terrorist.' Yes, I've been reading your posts for a while. Yes, I know about interrogation techniques, law enforcement and military.

    I sincerely disagree with you. People being tortured will tell you what thjey think you want to hear. they will exaggerate, lie, fabricate.

    While your agents are investigating all of these leads provided by torture, guess what? They are oftentimes missing the 'everyday' leads generated by talking... yes talking.. to people who might be bothered by the planned or proposed activities.


    Terror interrogations akin to witchcraft trials... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 01:15:09 PM EST
    Jeff, that is the most singularly succinct and incisive thing I have ever heard anybody say on the subject of torture as a means to extract (false) confessions. Obviously, a good analogy has a tremendous power to reframe perception of an issue.

    Wikipedia says the McCarthey Hearings were effectively discredited partly via comparasion to the Salem witch trials. I guess that is on the radar of public knowledge, but it would be really interesting to know the details and make a further case against torture tactics in 'anti-terror' interrogations.


    It will become unacceptable (none / 0) (#8)
    by jondee on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 01:34:12 PM EST
    methodology to the "national security" mentality probobly around the time when factored-in collateral casualties become unacceptable; when this crypto-fascistic idealization of the miltary - militarization and spreading "our way of life" to the four corners of the globe becomes unacceptable.

    Not for a long time, in other words.


    That's also a very interesting observation... (none / 0) (#9)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 01:58:08 PM EST
    I mean your statement about the:
    crypto-fascistic idealization of the miltary

    I'd like to hear more about what you see as the primary characteristics of that phenomenon.

    From my perspective, there's a huge problem with self-described opponents of the Iraq war who believe we can entirely separate the troops from the mission. i.e. the mantra: we hate the mission but we love the troops (to death, apparently).

    Is anybody in the public sphere asking: what is the basis for loving those troops who continue to volunteer to fight a war that is now universally regarded as a profoundly ill-motivated, if not outright criminal, venture? Is there no point at which the public is willing to recognize that troops share responsibility for the continuation of a war?


    Well, of course (none / 0) (#11)
    by jondee on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:20:04 PM EST
    most of it stems from an ongoing, 24-7 p.r campaign on the part of the military industrial complex geared to always having a fresh supply of cannon fodder on hand. To that end they keep various "consultants" (psychologists, marketing/focus-group types etc), on the payroll who keep them abreast of all the mulitfarious, insidious ways the impressionable, insecure, young (particularly male) American mind can be colonized and manipulated.

    Wilhelm Riech talked about all of this seventy years ago.


    It also gets you names of innocent people (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Jen M on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 06:31:13 PM EST
    Who have no relevant information whatsoever and make up crap when they are tortured.  

    Brings back memories (none / 0) (#12)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:31:11 PM EST
    "This hurts me more than it hurts you."

    And he was lying then too.

    Diogenes demonstrates the sadism and sociopathy normal and patriotic people are up against WRT to torture.  He doesn't have a problem with torture, as long as the torturer's heart is pure.

    And how, exactly, do we determine the purity of the torturer's heart?  Maybe we could waterboard him to make sure he's telling us the truth.  Just make sure you phrase the questions properly, because the answer will always be "YES!!!"


    George Orwell knew this (1.00 / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 08:05:02 PM EST
    I only said that torturing arrested criminals to get credible evidence for a court of law is different from torturing suspected terrorists to get leads on future terror.  
    If 90% of people being tortured make stuff up to get the torture to stop, then that's useless evidence for a court.  Whether it's worth torturing alleged terrorists to get 10% of potentially useful nuggets is an issue for moral and policy debate.
    George Orwell in "1984" knew that people when tortured reveal true stuff, although he would hardly make it a policy prescription for modern England.

    Hold on thar podnuh (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 09:25:36 PM EST
    Whether it's worth torturing alleged terrorists to get 10% of potentially useful nuggets is an issue for moral and policy debate.

    No it isn't.  Torture has no place in a moral society, for any reason.  That is an absolute, no exceptions, condition.

    There is no such thing as a ticking time bomb scenario. It is a fairy tale written to sell movie tickets, and you cannot cite a single real example.  How do you KNOW that your victim isn't innocent, and would you care if he was?  How would you feel if you killed your victim, as we have seen now dozens of times in Iraq, only to find out you had the wrong guy?

    Anyone claiming that torture is subject to argument is a sadistic sociopath and has no respect for the principles our country is founded on.  The debate is over, and the Inquisition, which was done for the most moral of reasons, to bring apostates back to God, lost the argument.


    Let me get this straight (none / 0) (#1)
    by me only on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 07:11:41 AM EST
    Burge is under indictment for lying, not beating the crap out of people?  Surely the man is being tried for the actual violence.

    This coupled with the rape issue in prison (my quick read is that many of the inmates are raped by the guards) makes me wonder "who watches the watchers?"

    no one, really. (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 07:42:09 AM EST
    "who watches the watchers?"

    in fact, with the rare exception of someone being exonerated and making the news, 99.99999% of the rest of the population gives no thought whatever to any of this.

    harsh assessment? yes, it is. prove me wrong.