Police Torture Victim Wins New Hearing

Justice for the Death Row 10!

Cops also confirmed the torture of Stanley Howard
By: Alice Kim

Here in Illinois, the heat is on. The fight to win justice for the Death Row 10 has been central to the fight against the death penalty here. From police brutality to a racist court system, their cases expose all of the injustices of the death penalty.

The Death Row 10 landed on death row as a result of confessions obtained through the use of torture by former Police Lt. Jon Burge at Area 2 headquarters. Burge's victims were all Black and suffered from beatings, suffocation and electric shock. In 1991, Burge was fired for torture after activists exposed his crimes. Burge currently lives in Florida - collecting a full pension - while his victims remain on death row.

Since Anthony Porter won his freedom, activists have stepped up the pressure to bring attention to the Death Row 10. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty along with several mothers of the Death Row 10 and other activists have organized press conferences, pickets and meetings calling attention to the plight of the Death Row 10. Days after Porter was released, activists disrupted a City Council meeting by chanting and unfurling a banner that read "Justice for the Death Row 10" - while supporters held a picket and press conference in front of City Hall. Later that afternoon, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a staunch death penalty supporter, announced that he supported a partial moratorium in Illinois.

"I'm going to keep fighting as long as my health lets me," said Luva Bell, mother of Death Row 10 member Ronald Kitchen. "How would you feel if someone accused you of doing something and you know that you didn't? What would you do? As long as you keep fighting, somebody is going to hear you. I really think more people should get involved."

The activity has kept the spotlight on the death penalty and other wrongful convictions like those of the Death Row 10. Articles on the Death Row 10 have been featured in both of Chicago's major newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Because of this climate, several members of the Death Row 10 have won important gains. Andrew Maxwell, one of the Death Row 10, recently won an evidentiary hearing from a federal court - the hearing will look into allegations of police torture. Andrew's hearing is the first of its kind for any of the Death Row 10. It could not only lead to a new trial for Andrew, but it could set a precedent for all of the Death Row 10. (See the letter from Andrew Maxwell in the "Voices from Inside" section of this issue.)

Things are also opening up for Stanley Howard. The former head of the department's Office of Professional Standards, Gayle Hines, publicly admitted that she failed to act on two cases of police torture that were confirmed by OPS investigators because she was too "occupied" with other duties. One of those cases was Stanley's.

And finally, a delegation of activists, attorneys and politicians representing Aaron Patterson won an appointment to meet with Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.

As Andrew Maxwell said, "Now I see a light at the end of the tunnel." The public pressure that has been built has made a difference, especially to those on death row.

"I was watching the news the other day when I saw people whose faces I had never seen before chanting 'Free the Death Row 10,'" said Andrew. "All the guys in the gallery started cheering for me. The feeling I had was verbally indescribable. All I could do was smile and hope that I wouldn't wake up from a dream."

We need others to join us in demanding an investigation into this issue of torture. Please contact the Campaign to End the Death Penalty at 312-409-7145.