Chicago police torture victims launch campaign for justice

Enough is enough!

By: Joan Parkin

When former Illinois’ Gov. George Ryan made the historic step of pardoning four police torture victims from death row and commuting 167 other death sentences, he opened the door for a new and broader political campaign against wrongful convictions and Illinois’ racist criminal justice system.

In order to meet that opportunity, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty has launched a new political action group of families and supporters on Chicago’s South Side to organize protests in conjunction with prisoners railroaded by the system. Our mission is to pressure officials to act–or get out of the way so we can find someone who can. Our theme is: Enough is Enough!

Enough of police who torture and brutalize. Enough of prosecutors who cover it up. Enough of racist judges who watch over the whole conspiracy of silence that perpetuates the railroading of countless innocent, poor, young Black and Latino men and women. Enough of a generation of politicians who have sacrificed justice in greedy pursuit of material gain. We’ve had enough!

In the forefront of this campaign are the Chicago police torture victims, carrying the same issue that Ryan credited as the clearest example of what’s wrong with Illinois’ death penalty system. If the fight for the Death Row 10 police torture victims helped convince a governor to have a change of heart, whose heart would more than 90 Burge victims and countless other wrongfully convicted open?

How many people would be interested in hearing how–right here in the land of democracy–there are over 90 Black and Latino men who were hooked to walls, beaten, kicked and tortured with electrical current by a highly decorated police lieutenant and others under his direction.

For 20 years, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives used torture methods familiar to war crimes tribunals to target Black men from Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. In 1993, to stem mounting criticism after 60 torture cases came to light, authorities forced Burge to resign. Yet there were no indictments. Burge himself got off with a full pension and is now retired in Florida.

Burge got away with it because he wasn’t acting alone. Far from a rogue operation this conspiracy goes all the way to the top. Mayor Richard Daley and State’s Attorney Dick Devine built their careers off of the perpetuation of these and countless other wrongfully convicted prisoners.

Today, Judge Paul Biebel has removed Devine and his office from all of the Burge cases because of his conflict of interest–and put Attorney General Lisa Madigan in charge of prosecuting the cases instead. Biebel also appointed a special prosecutor to investigate all of Burge’s detectives.

These Burge cases are just the tip of Illinois’ utterly racist and corrupt criminal justice system. Our political action campaign therefore demands justice for the wrongfully convicted and for all other victims of Illinois’ racist criminal justice system. Inspired by our victory for the Death Row 10, and angry that the powers that be will not render justice without a fight, we come together in struggle with the hope that one day soon, we’ll see our friends and loved ones win justice and walk free.

For those interested in getting involved in the campaign please write to Joan Parkin or Stanley Howard at: P.O. Box 377535, Chicago, IL 60637.