Burge jury selection begins today on police torture

A pool of 90 potential jurors will begin to be whittled down to 12 today as jury selection begins

By: Pat Curry
WGN News
Monday, May 24, 2010
CHICAGO - A pool of 90 potential jurors will begin to be whittled down to 12 today as jury selection begins for the trial of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, accused of lying about alleged abuse and torture of suspects.

Burge, now 62, served as a detective and a District Commander when the alleged torturing of suspects took place.

The torture allegations span from 1972 to 1991 in which more than 200 suspects were reportedly forced to confess to crimes under investigation. Burge was suspended from the Chicago Police Department in 1991 and in 1993 he was fired when the Police Department Review Board ruled that he had used torture. Burge was accused of lying when he denied in a civil lawsuit that he and other police detectives had tortured anyone.

The potential jurors were given lengthy questionaires earlier in May asking about their ability to fairly judge Burge. Attorneys for the former police commander had argued for a change of venue, telling a judge that Burge could not receive a fair trial in Chicago. A motion filed last week argued that a planned rally this morning would prejudice the jury pool against Burge.

The judge has already ruled out previous motions to move the location of the trial, but hasn't yet ruled out this one. She has summoned attorneys for both sides this morning before summoning potential jurors.

Some of the accusations against Burge is that he and his men used electric shocks, beatings, choking, and other torture techniques to make criminal suspects confess, and the issues have been raised in many trials through the years. Former Illinois governor George Ryan decided to halt the state's death penalty because of the allegations raised by many of the alleged tactics used by Burge and his subordinates.

Burge avoided criminal charges until October 2008. A federal lawsuit filed in 2003 by Madison Hobley, convicted of murder and sentenced to death for a 1987 arson that killed 7 people including his wife and son, was pardoned by Ryan. Hobley was one of 14 men convicted and sentenced to death based on confessions made allegedly under torture. After the lawsuit by Mobley was filed, Burge was arrested and charged for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with Hobley's suit.

The trial is expected to last up to two months. If convicted, Burge could face 45 years in prison.

pcurry@tribune.com

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