News and Updates

Study Finds Blacks Blocked From Southern Juries

Credit: Dale Gerstenslager/Winona Times, via Associated Press
Curtis Flowers at his capital trial in 2004. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed his first conviction after prosecutors used all of their peremptory strikes against blacks in the jury pool.
New York Times
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In late April in a courthouse in Madison County, Ala., a prosecutor was asked to explain why he had struck 11 of 14 black potential jurors in a capital murder case.

The district attorney, Robert Broussard, said one had seemed “arrogant” and “pretty vocal.” In another woman, he said he “detected hostility.”

Kagan: No need for court review of rogue juror

Associated Press
Monday, May 31, 2010

WASHINGTON — A federal judge warned jurors in a death penalty trial 41 times not to discuss the case with anyone, not even each other, until they were sent off to deliberate on a verdict.

That didn't stop Cynthia Wilson, the jury foreman, from calling five news organizations and placing 71 other telephone calls to two fellow jurors.

Burge trial underway, torture victim speaks from Death Row

By: Kathy Chaney
Chicago Defender
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

As potential jurors in former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge’s
perjury case began to be questioned Monday by a federal judge, one of
his alleged victims, Stanley Howard, prayed for a new trial and mercy
for himself.

A special prosecutor ruled four years ago that Burge and several
detectives under his management tortured more than 100 suspects into
confessing to crimes by using electric shock, beatings and other
odious acts between 1972 and 1991 while in custody at either Area 2 or
Area 3.

He was fired from the department in 1993 and indicted in 2008 on
perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying to

In Death-Penalty Cases, Innocence Has to Matter

Credit: From left: Jerry Cabluck / Sygma / Corbis; Dennis Degnan / CORBIS
The lethal-injection room at Huntsville Prison, Texas, and the Supreme Court Building where the Hank Skinner case will be heard
By: Adam Cohen
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hank Skinner, who is on death row in Texas, had a simple request. Before the state took his life, he wanted to test DNA evidence from the crime scene that could prove he was wrongly convicted. Texas prosecutors, whose love for the death penalty is legendary, refused.

Skinner then sued, claiming that federal civil rights laws gave him a constitutional right to do the testing. A federal appeals court ruled against him. (See TIME's death penalty covers.)

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.

Jury Selection Begins in Jon Burge Trial
Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicago - A judge has questioned 28 potential jurors in the trial of former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge, who is accused of lying about the decades-old torture of suspects.

Several people were excused by the judge on Monday, including a woman who told the federal judge she couldn't be fair because she'd already made up her mind.

Jury selection continues Tuesday.

Burge has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice and perjury. He's accused of lying when he denied in a civil lawsuit that he and other detectives had tortured anyone. He faces a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Prosecutors contend he and his officers beat and tortured suspects decades ago.

Jury Selection Begins In Burge Trial

Former Police Lt. Jon Burge Accused Of Lying About Torture Of Black Suspects

Credit: (File Photo) CBS
Former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge
Monday, May 24, 2010

CHICAGO (CBS) ― For decades, black men across Chicago described torture at the hands of former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his officers, and for decades no one listened.

Suspects landed in jail and even on death row for crimes they say they didn't commit after Burge and his men coerced confessions using terrifying methods including suffocation, a form of waterboarding and electric shocks.

Finally those complaints from the 1970s and 80s are being taken seriously -- and it could be Burge's own words that send him to prison.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Texas Death Row inmate's case

Star Telegram
Monday, May 24, 2010

AUSTIN -- A Texas Death Row inmate who came within minutes of being executed for a triple murder in the Panhandle is now at the center of a potentially far-reaching Supreme Court case on DNA testing.

Hank Skinner, who was eating his last meal when the justices stayed his execution in March, says a Texas prosecutor is violating his civil rights by not turning over DNA evidence that Skinner says will prove his innocence. The high court agreed Monday to hear the case.

Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for killing his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two mentally impaired adult sons. Skinner said he was passed out on the couch the night of the slayings after consuming alcohol and Xanax and could not have committed the murders.

Police torturer on trial

Chicago police torturer Jon Burge
Socialist Worker
Friday, May 21, 2010

The man responsible for the torture of Mark Clements and some 200 other African American and Latino men in Chicago will go on trial on Monday in a downtown courtroom.

Jon Burge is former police commander who oversaw a squad of detectives who were notorious for using torture techniques to coerce false confessions out of suspects. One of their victims was a 16-year-old Clements. The incriminating statement that was tortured out of him was the main evidence used at the trial where he was convicted. Clements was sentenced to four life sentences plus 30 years.