Chicago police torture exposed

By: Alina Braica

In recent months, former Chicago police commander Jon Burge has been feeling the heat. For the first time, someone close to the officers has spoken out and said they knew about the torture that Burge and his detectives inflicted upon countless African American men. In a sworn videotaped statement, Ellen Pryweller, the sister of former Detective Robert Dwyer, said that her brother and Burge bragged about torturing confessions out of innocent men during interrogations.

"They began to boast about power and what really happens in a police station," Pryweller told lawyers for Madison Hobley, a Burge torture victim who was pardoned from death row by former Gov. Ryan. "When they get them in a police station, they give them hell," she added. "They beat the [expletive] out of them. They throw them against walls. They burn them against radiators. They smother them. They poke them with objects. They did something to one guy’s testicles."

In response to this news, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Enough is Enough Campaign against police torture held a press conference and picket in front of the Special Prosecutor’s office demanding the prosecution of Burge and the results of the Special Prosecutor’s findings to date.

About two years ago, former Judge Edward Egan was appointed as a Special Prosecutor to investigate the longstanding allegations of systematic police torture of African American men at Areas 2 and 3 headquarters. In response to increasing public pressure, Egan finally subpoenaed nine officers to appear before the Grand Jury for questioning in relation to the torture.

In April, the Campaign hosted a successful forum entitled: "Live From Prison: House of Screams" featuring Stanley Howard and Marvin Reeves, both torture victims, who spoke to the audience live from their prison cells via telephone hook-up. Howard was pardoned from death row by former Gov. Ryan in January 2003 but he is currently serving time on another bogus charge and Reeves is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

"I’ve come to realize that they are trying to destroy my spirit, and I can’t let them have my spirit," Reeves told the audience. "I am using my voice for change and for justice. Will you use your voice?" Howard asked listeners.

Other speakers at the forum included Darby Tillis, exonerated from Illinois’ death row; Ronald Kitchen Jr.; Tanya Trowell of the Campaign; and Monique Mathews, the sister of Louisiana death row prisoner Ryan Mathews, who also spoke to the audience via telephone hook-up.

Campaigners also attended a court hearing for Death Row 10 member Ronald Kitchen and organized an informational picket in front of the courthouse beforehand. Then in May, Campaigners attended a protest sponsored by the Enough is Enough campaign at the City Council to expose Mayor Richard Daley’s role in covering up the torture. We intend to keep up the pressure to win justice for the Death Row 10 and all of Burge’s victims.