City must end Jon Burge injustice

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For more than 30 years, officials of the city of Chicago have stood in the way of justice regarding Jon Burge.

For more than 30 years, officials of the city of Chicago have stood in the way of justice regarding Jon Burge.

Burge, the former Chicago police lieutenant who was convicted last year of lying to a grand jury, is serving a four-year prison sentence. No one doubts that he is also guilty of conducting a 20-year reign of terror on Black men, using torture to elicit false confessions from them, resulting in decades of imprisonment for crimes they did not commit. He lied about even knowing about the torture, which is what got him the prison time. But he is serving no time for the torture, that time has already been served by the many men he victimized.

But the city is still fighting lawsuits stemming from Burge’s horrific deeds. Inexplicably, we taxpayers (including some of his victims) are paying for Burge’s legal help, which has already totaled in the millions of dollars.

It must stop!

Burge hid behind a city government and police department that would rather look the other way. He conducted his heinous rituals with impunity, because he was either getting tacit approval from higher up, or because they tried to follow a policy of plausible deniability. Don’t tell us about it, and we won’t have to say we knew.

The galling part of this 30-year farce is that Burge is still hiding behind those same people, those same institutions. He is sitting in prison while highly-paid lawyers keep trying to thwart justice. And the city is not only paying for the legal battles, it is also balking at settling some of the lawsuits.

The city has already paid out more than $43 million in settlements for the men who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for decades based on confessions obtained by the torture Burge inflicted upon them. But there are more lawsuits, other men, who find their way to justice blocked not by Burge, or the prison system, but by city lawyers.

It must stop!

That is why we are glad to see Mayor Rahm Emmanuel step up and broach the subject of settlements for the Burge cases. We are not na∩ve enough to think that the mayor is solely interested in justice. There is, of course, a financial component to this new tack. With the city up to its neck in red ink, the continued flow of money into defending these indefensible cases in court makes no fiscal sense.

We also understand that a recent court ruling that allows for former Mayor Richard M. Daley to be deposed in these cases is also an impetus for “settlement” talk. Burge victims have for years argued that these crimes occurred under Daley’s watch, both as state’s attorney and as mayor. They wanted defendant Daley to answer some questions about Burge under oath, but that could be not only embarrassing, it could be a blockbuster.

Whatever the reason, we look forward to bringing this sordid chapter to a close. There is no way to repair the chasm between the Black community and the Chicago police department as long as this Burge cloud hovers over that chasm. Though the tortures took place long enough ago to have exhausted the statute of limitations, the stain on the city for the past three decades will remain indelible until justice comes to ALL of the Burge victims.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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