Yesterday, a jury found former Chicago police commander Jon Burge guilty.  Not of the torture which it’s alleged he committed and/or oversaw in his years as a detective and commander in Chicago Police Area 2, but of lying about the torture under oath.

Jon Burge at the Federal Building on June 8 this year

Many hundreds of people were (allegedly) tortured, some into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.  Others were never charged with a crime.  Despite notifying the Cook County State’s Attorney of at least fifty incidents of torture, and despite an array of lawuits against Burge, his cohorts, and the city, Burge continued as a detective, and a torturer, for over a decade.  Burge was finally forced to retire in 1993.  He moved to Florida, where he’s been living ever since on a full pension.

John Conroy covered the story for the Chicago Reader, going back to 1990.  I followed the story for years.  When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, I believed one could draw a line from the south side of Chicago to the prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan where American service people tortured people in custody.  I chose to turn it into fiction, in Hardball, where V I Warshawski has to come face to face with the torture of suspects in custody, and find out what role her beloved father played in that police district.

Several brave people brought the original story to light.  You can read about them in full in the Chicago Reader files.  Some of the torture victims were what prosecutors like to call “the worst of the worst–” a title they gave the hundreds of men scooped up and sent to Guantanamo.  Some were innocent.  None deserved to have a current run through electrodes on their genitals and ears.

I sat through part of Burge’s trial.  It was impossible to know how the jury was reacting.  Burge himself seemed not only confident but cocky, smirking with his lawyers, leaning back in his chair at ease.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I feel a certain relief that the jury found him guilty.

  • I did not know about this. I’ll have to read the files but I’m wondering why he wasn’t prosecuted on the torture, as well. So torture is okay as long as you don’t lie about it?? Sounds like they channeled the Bush administration.

  • Shirley

    It does the heart good when a crooked public official like this gets what he deserves! Reminds me of Stephen Griles, the Deputy Sec. of the Interior in the Bush/Cheney administration, who got caught lying to Senate investigators about his involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. He got Federal prison time for obstruction of justice.

  • Agreed, Shirley, and a bucket of civil suits are on the way. Cheryl, they weren’t prosecuted for the torture because they lied like rugs about it and the police and county hierarchy supported them. Who knew there was a statute of limitations on torture? That in itself is depressing. Other than that, all the news is good, good, good. Bag Lady, if you read comments, note that we’re all moving north to share in Canada’s economic miracle!

  • The Chicago Reader site is impressive — I’d never heard of them before. I’m glad to see that type of writing is still alive and kicking, despite Murray’s troubles.

  • Idzan Ismail. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Happy Independence Day Ms Parestky and all Americans.
    Have a good one.
    May God Bless America, Cheers.


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