Burge conviction prompts federal bill by Rep. Davis

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Monday’s perjury and obstruction of justice conviction of a former Chicago police lieutenant has prompted one West Side lawmaker to introduce new legislation in Congress.

Monday’s perjury and obstruction of justice conviction of a former Chicago police lieutenant has prompted one West Side lawmaker to introduce new legislation in Congress. U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-7th, said he plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would make police torture of suspects a crime against humanity thus having no statue of limitation for prosecution. “This bill will clearly define torture and make it a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison,” Davis said. “I have been working on this bill for several months to make it easier for prosecutors to go after those who torture others.” He added that anyone still incarcerated should receive new trials to determine if any information was extracted illegally. Jon Burge was convicted in federal court for lying during a 2003 civil case when asked if he ever participated or witnessed suspects being tortured at police stations during the 1970s and 1980s. Prosecutors in this current case said he could not be tried for torture because the statue of limitation for such a crime had run out, even though there were witnesses willing to testify about such abuse. At a Monday news conference Jonathan Jackson, a spokesman for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said despite Burge’s conviction there are no winners in the case. “It took 37 years to get him (Burge) to this point. And even though he was found guilty there are still several men still incarcerated for crimes they may not have committed,” Jackson said. “The taxpayers lost because they paid $50 million for his legal defense and now the trust many good police officers have earned is now broken.” Jackson, who attended the five-week trial, said he was grateful to the 12 jurors for finding Burge guilty and pointed out that only one juror was Black. “This just shows that Caucasians and Blacks sought justice together,” he said. Flint Taylor, a Chicago attorney who has represented 15 alleged torture victims, said Burge’s conviction is a step in the right direction. “His (Burge) conviction is a victory for the African American community. However, there are still 20 men who remain incarcerated as a result of questionable confessions and they should all be released and granted a new trail,” Taylor told the Defender. “If new trials are granted for these men their confessions should not be allowed as evidence.” He added that Mayor Richard M. Daley should move quickly to have Burge’s police pension cut off since the mayor declined to pursue charges against Burge during the 1980s when Daley was the Cook County State’s Attorney. “The mayor’s hands are not clean in all of this. There is a lot he could have done then but declined to do so. Let’s see if now he does the right thing,” said Taylor. “The city should also financially compensate these men because they have lost more than we can ever imagine.” Daley was unavailable for comment. Burge will be sentenced Nov. 5 and could receive probation or a maximum of 45 years in prison.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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