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The [Monday] Papers

Jurors in the Jon Burge trial are expected to resume deliberating today after failing to reach a decision in more than eight hours of discussion on Thursday and Friday, AP reports.

The Tribune noted on Sunday that regardless of the verdict, Burge will remain in some legal jeopardy.

"Burge still faces a federal civil rights lawsuit against him by Darrell Cannon, who accused detectives under Burge's command of staging a mock execution and shocking him in the genitals with a cattle prod during a 1983 interrogation until he falsely confessed to murder," the paper reported on page 16.

"In addition, several other alleged victims who were recently exonerated of crimes - including Ronald Kitchen and Michael Tillman - have signaled their intention to sue Burge and other detectives for the decades they spent in prison. Both were granted certificates of innocence within the past year - a document similar to a pardon - after the Illinois attorney general's office declined to retry them because their confessions had been coerced."

The only ones left who refuse to believe Burge led a torture ring, it seems, are dead-enders who are constitutionally unable to fathom - or simply don't care - that such a thing occurred.

Still, the media apathy is stunning.

A new bizarre excuse comes from Eric Zorn:

"Even though I normally follow criminal justice issues, I've barely touched on this trial," Zorn wrote on Sunday. "The reason? I don't want to risk vesting importance in a not-guilty verdict which, at this writing, with the jury still deliberating, I consider possible. Jurors can be awfully sympathetic to lawmen, and Burge's defense played heavily on their emotions.

"I've read enough about these massively corroborated allegations over the years that the opinion reached by a dozen newcomers to a partial presentation won't change my mind and shouldn't change yours."

And therefore I'm not even going to discuss the evidence presented at this trial or the ramifications for any current officeholders including our mayor! I just don't care anymore!

"Nor, I believe, will the verdict have any repercussions either way. The stories of torture have already resulted in all the reforms they're going to result in - videotaping of confessions and interrogations, cameras on cops, greatly heightened skepticism of the wisdom of the death penalty and so on."

Yes. All of the policy prescriptions have been taken care of!

("Meanwhile, Representative Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, is pushing for federal legislation that would make police torture a federal crime without a statute of limitations," the Chicago News Cooperative reported on Friday.)

"Nothing this jury decides will change the necessity and wisdom of those reforms or that, in many ways, over time, justice here has already been done."

Yes, justice has already been done. Why even hold this trial? Who cares if Burge is imprisoned or if any of his co-conspirators are waylaid by their own perjury charges? Who cares if the victims and their families are left with open wounds? Zorn has seen enough. Time to move on to men not asking for directions and the genius of Bob Sirott!

"And why has there been no uprising of outraged citizens," Carol Marin writes in her Sunday Sun-Times column.

Just what is it citizens are supposed to do to show their outrage? At least journalists have a platform from which to vent, analyze, and even attempt to hold shame public officials into accountability. Why has there been no uprising of outraged pundits?

"In truth, that code [of silence] is alive and well in every corner of this city and state."

Including our newsrooms.

For example, where are the profiles and distillations of Burge attorney Rick Beuke?

Reports John Conroy:

"Beuke did concede [in his closing argument] Wilson had injuries inflicted on the day of his arrest, but they were all inflicted by the 'two idiots' who transported him from Area 2, men who were not under Burge's command. (Both of those officers are now dead.) Beuke said that Wilson capitalized on the abuse, filing a civil suit against Burge, some Area 2 detectives, and the city for $10 million, thinking, 'now I get paid for killing two police officers.' After pronouncing Wilson's testimony 'garbage' and theatrically pitching it into a wastebasket, Beuke went on to say that the cop-killer didn't get paid because the jury 'didn't believe Andrew Wilson.'

"This last bit wasn't the true outcome of that lawsuit, and Beuke knew it. The U.S. Court of Appeals threw out a jury verdict that had gone against Wilson. Chief Judge Richard Posner wrote that the judge had allowed William Kunkle, Burge's attorney, to load the jury with 'a mass of inflammatory evidence having little or no relevance to the issues in this trial . . . and thus turn the trial of the defendants into a trial of the plaintiff.' In July, 1996, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman decided the case in Wilson's favor, entering a judgment against the city for more than $1 million. Wilson didn't see a penny and had known for years that he wouldn't, as the family of one of the officers had filed a wrongful death suit against him."

Geez, Conroy, stop investing so much emotional capital in this thing! You'll never get a job like Zorn's that way.

"Beuke also knew that his proclamation about the outcome of the suit was testifying to facts not in evidence, which is against the rules. The government objected and the judge sustained the objection, an act repeated several times until the judge finally got testy and told Beuke to desist."

This trial is such a waste!

"Beuke had argued that the five victims had hatched a conspiracy together, that they crossed paths in Cook County Jail, and their efforts were aimed at beating their cases and winning large sums in civil suits thereafter. Perry pointed out the foolhardiness of embarking on such a conspiracy.

"The first of the five, Anthony Holmes, spoke out about his torture in 1973, never filed a civil suit, and spent more than three decades in jail. Melvin Jones spoke out in 1982, never filed a civil suit, his motion to suppress his confession made no difference in the outcome of his case. Andrew Wilson also spoke out in 1982, within 24 hours of being tortured, his injuries present for the world to see. He was ignored.

"So when Gregory Banks spoke out in 1983, there was hardly a winning strategy to embark on, and if it was such a winner, [prosecutor April] Perry asked, why did he name three other detectives, not Burge, as his torturers, and why did the winning strategy result in him spending seven years in prison before his case was overturned?

"Shadeed Mu'min, tortured in 1985, was a stranger to Chicago, a member of no gang. When he made his allegations, there was not a single case to inspire him, nothing to indicate that he was going down some known road to success. His motion to suppress was rejected, he was convicted, he served his time, and he has never filed a civil suit."


You know, if a police department and a state's attorney's office and a city government can shield a torture ring long enough to run out the clock on the statute of limitations and if we can push through some half-hearted reforms on paper and then go about our business, why bother holding anyone accountable? Trials are for sissies.

Remembering Stuart Brent
Chicago's Messianic Bookseller.

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Posted on June 28, 2010

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